MIT: New mobile chip will boost energy efficiency by 10x

MIT researchers develop new chip design

Researchers at MIT have created a new chip design that they claim will be 10 times more energy efficient than the processors currently used in mobile devices.

The new design, which is being unveiled at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco this week, is intended for use in portable electronics, such as mobile phones, PDAs and even implantable medical devices.

The key to the improved energy efficiency lies in making the planned chips work at a reduced voltage level, according to a report by Joyce Kwong, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the chip design project team.

Most of the mobile processors now in use operate at about 1 volt, according to Kwong's report. But MIT's new design only requires 0.3 volts, the report said.

"Voltage is critical," an analyst at In-Stat, Jim McGregor, said. "All these handheld devices are being asked to do more and more. To be able to decrease voltage lets you increase silicon complexity to handle more functions, and it also increases battery life, which is a critical component in multiple applications."

McGregor explained that when you use the standard equation to calculate how much power a chip will use, the voltage is squared. That means reining in voltage use is a key facet of reducing power consumption. "If voltage increases, you have a huge jump in power consumption," he said. "But if you reduce voltage, you have a similar decrease in power consumption."

President of Mercury Research, Dean McCarron, noted that in the 1960s and early 1970s, an average computer chip used about 12 volts. Ten years ago, that number was down to 5 volts, and it only dropped down to 1 to 2 volts within the past three years, he said.

"Lowering voltage is actually the standard for lowering system power," said McCarron. "The challenge is that when voltage gets to a certain level, generally around 0.8 to 0.9 volts, making the chip work becomes more difficult. You know, 0.9 was thought to be the floor, and these guys have broken through the floor."

Kwong's report said that the new chip design is in the proof-of-concept stage, with researchers at MIT predicting that it could become available "in five years, maybe even sooner."

The MIT researchers worked on the chip design project along with a team from Texas Instruments Inc. The project was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. MIT officials couldn't be reached today for comment on the size of the grant or the total cost of the project.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?