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Power Intel Hardware

Intel Experimental Processor Runs On Solar Power 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the heliotropic-computing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For the IDF keynote, Intel showed an experimental processor that is solar powered (incandescent light shining on a solar panel). The whole computer itself still runs on regular power; only the processor itself is solar. From the article: 'The concept processor, code-named Claremont, can run light workloads on solar power by dropping energy consumption to under 10 milliwatts, said Justin Rattner, chief technology officer at Intel, during a keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. That is low enough to keep a chip running on a solar cell the size of a stamp.'"
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Intel Experimental Processor Runs On Solar Power

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  • I think that's French, for "Koh-e-Noor".

  • Imagine... (Score:3, Funny)

    by tenco (773732) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @08:16PM (#37415672)
    ...a Beowulf cluster of those (on your roof).
  • 10mW cpu / 60W incandescent bulb = 0.16% efficient. Go green technology!
    • by blair1q (305137) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @08:36PM (#37415782) Journal

      It's not for you.

      It's for people who actually see the sun sometimes.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I believe those are called daywalkers.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by catprog (849688)

      60W incandescent bulb =

      1.26watts light
      58.74 watts heat
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb#Efficiency_and_environmental_impact [wikipedia.org]

      Look a how much of the light is shining off the panel and the efficiency of the light->cpu is even better

      And is the cpu using all the power available from the panel?

    • by jiteo (964572)
      The point is that lighting is something that you *will have anyways*, so why not run a processor off of it. They're not proposing adding light bulbs to your house just to power your laptop. I honestly can't believe this got modded 3 insightful at the time of this writing.
      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Except you don't always have lights. And in plenty of places you don't even have basic candle light. This is a pretty show piece, nothing more.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Is a solar powered pocket calculator a "pretty show piece"? The first calculators I got to use plugged into wall sockets for power. A solar powered laptop is the obvious progression of that idea that was bound to happen as soon as the power requirements could be reduced enough.
          And as for your objection, nobody said the thing couldn't have a rechargeable battery. If the thing is going to be in darkness forever you use something else for that very contrived edge case.
          • The first calculators I got to use plugged into wall sockets for power.

            Hah! the first calculator I got to use was full of people!

            joke aside you are right that is seems just logical for processor developers to find more and more energy efficient designs but I never expected the main manufacturers (Intel|AMD) to come up with it. Not with the never ending Flop fever© of the computer industry.

          • Is a solar powered pocket calculator a "pretty show piece"?

            As long as the rest of the computer needs conventional power, a solar-powered CPU doesn't give you any advantage. What I think they actually wanted to show is "see, our processor needs that little energy that you can even put it on a solar cell!" Given that processors are usually hidden somewhere in a case, having a solar cell attached to it wouldn't usually do much good anyway. Of course if all components of the computer can be made to consume that

          • The first calculator I used had a handle on the side that you turned. Addition and subtraction were fine, but multiplication could get really tiring... It did help teach me about logarithms though. Also about gearing when I took it apart.
          • by Tomato42 (2416694)

            I doubt people would be content with 300x200 monochrome screen in their laptop.

            The biggest power drains in laptops are the screens and hard disks. The latter is fixed with SSDs, the former not so much. Though I think it would be actually possible to create a sub 50mW computer if you used e-Ink display, SSD storage and CPU from the article.

          • by Mashiki (184564)

            Actually yes. Considering that the slide rule could still do more, and more efficiently. Until the rest of the components catch up, a CPU running in that state is nothing more than a pretty show piece.

            • by dbIII (701233)
              I get it - you're one of the "don't wake me up until it's made in China and sold at Walmart" mob. Your point is noted but I consider it of very little worth because products do not appear in a single day by magic. Your comment tells us far more about yourself than anything to do with this low power consumption component.
      • Think at the bright side!
        this will bring nerds to the outsides! Except for those who will do the obvious and use 400 lightbulbs to drive their new light powered® computer and drive their electricity costs up 70000%.

    • Try again. 10 mW / 60 W is 0.016%.
  • Urgh - a quick google unearths nothing more than copy-pastes of this article

    Anyone got something more interesting on the actual tech?

  • (incandescent) so... we've finally found a reason not to use CFLs? ;)
  • by Curate (783077) <craigbarkhouse@hotmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2011 @08:43PM (#37415820)
    The concept processor, code-named Claremont, can run light workloads on solar power...

    That makes sense. Now what if you want to run dark workloads?

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      The concept processor, code-named Claremont, can run light workloads on solar power...

      That makes sense. Now what if you want to run dark workloads?

      The concept processor, code-named Claremont, can run light workloads on solar power...

      That makes sense. Now what if you want to run dark workloads?

      I find your fear of the dark workload disturbing.

      --

      I'm sorry, we can't print your check; the light bulb burned out.

    • by quenda (644621)

      How light? Would it be powerful enough to run a pocket calculator?
      I bags the patent on that idea.

      • by PiSkyHi (1049584)
        Yes, if it were the size of a postage stamp, I could attach the device to my wrist and carry around my solar powered arm based difference engine, its screensaver could display something like the time, the date and possibly current weather conditions.
  • As does in-case lighting... wait a minute...
  • Why would a processor "care" where it gets its electricity? Anyone who owns a computer and has rooftop solar panels or buys electricity from a provider using solar generation presumably has probably run a processor on solar power. Heck, so has anyone who's used a two dollar solar powered pocket calculator. A CPU and its electrical power source are just not coupled concepts.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday September 15, 2011 @10:20PM (#37416298)
      If a device's appetite for power falls below what can be gathered passively from the environment, then it doesn't need a battery or power cord, and can run practically forever, which is a big impact.
      • But does this thing perform any better than the processor in a solar powered calculator?
      • by Intropy (2009018)
        Yes, but that is a story about improvements in the computation power to electrical power consumption ratio. The solar power bit is immaterial.
    • by tmosley (996283)
      Yup. I run my laptop off of a solar panel I have rigged up in my front yard. I really need to get another one and a larger battery, though, as I have to switch it back to grid power a couple of hours after sundown.
  • The "solar" bit is pretty much a gimmick; but I suspect that the underlying technology will be something that Intel finds very handy indeed, for chips of a variety of power levels.

    Apparently, Intel has been working on bringing down the Vcore as sharply as their process capabilities allow. Lower core voltage, substantially lower power consumption, all else being equal(as people overvolting their CPUs tend to find out quickly...) It remains to be seen if Intel will be able to do this cheaply enough to actu
    • This isn't really something Intel can do optionally though. With the rate power consumption of CPU cores has been increasing, they need to do something about it pretty much now since it's not going to be possible to air-heatsink that much heat if it keeps going up.

      • With the rate power consumption of CPU cores has been increasing

        You are a few years behind the curve. Since the pentium D CPU TDP (roughly power consumption under the highest normal load) has stayed pretty much flat while core counts and performance of individual cores have gone up (despite the drop in clockspeeds)

        The power consumption per core has been going down in recent times. The pentium D 965 extreme has two cores, a clockspeed of 3.73 GHz and a TDP of 130W. The i7-990x has six cores.a nominal clockspeed of 3.47 GHz (plus turbo boost) and a TDP of 130W.

        Comparing t

        • The point still stands though - super-low power consumption has to be an active area of research for them since we've been at about the maximum manageable power consumption by a CPU for a while now. Increases in transistor counts need to accompany decreases in power consumption per transistor.

  • The chip is an experimental Pentium CPU and ran on a PC with the Linux operating system.

  • by Dunbal (464142) *
    Now botnets can really run 24/7 when people never sleep or shut down their machines to save electricity!
    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      A solar-powered processor running 24/7? I didn't know polar bears and penguins owned computers.
  • I suggested IBM could make chips that get power from a solar cell integrated with them, and that communicate with each other via either light or radio (so, no need for a backplane or wire harnesses, and potentially the light could even be directable to build ad-hoc networks across an open central space if the chips were on the inside of a sphere). No one took it very seriously. In college, around 1984, I suggested a desktop computer that was the desktop and was a monolithic several centimeter thick optical

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      That's fantastic and all, but you're completely missing the point. The fact that it was powered by a PV cell is irrelevant. What they are showing off is a Pentium core and DDR3 memory idling at 10mW. They are showing off a processor that has a hundred fold or more difference between idle and load. You no longer shut off your PC, you no longer put it in standby, you just let it go into low power mode indefinitely. The PV cell was just a demonstration of how low power it was.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        That's fantastic and all, but you're completely missing the point. The fact that it was powered by a PV cell is irrelevant. What they are showing off is a Pentium core and DDR3 memory idling at 10mW.

        Try reading TFA with your English parser active. The memory experienced a sevenfold power reduction and the CPU "can run light workloads" at "less than" 10mW (which in my book has me counting nines.) DRAM still has to be refreshed and SRAM still sucks power. (Where's my MRAM?) Also, a classic weakness in Intel solutions has been the power consumption of the chipset. When the Athlon 64 came out and eliminated the north bridge the desktop offering was lower-power than Intel's powerful mobile chip of the time

    • by Asic Eng (193332)

      Well, I don't see much value in stating great goals without any concrete ideas of how to achieve them, unless you are really the first person to actually think of the goal itself. Saying it would be great to have a processor consuming only a few mW is not very helpful. Yes of course it would be great, people have been working on reducing power consumption for a long time.

      Actually having an idea how to reach that goal - now that's something interesting to hear about.

      Also you seem to have misunderstood th

      • True overall, including on my misperception on the TFA, but see my other comments in this thread.

        Also, on: "Well, I don't see much value in stating great goals without any concrete ideas of how to achieve them".

        That kind of ignores that notion of "fundamental research" which you would think a big research organization ideally would do more of. Related:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_research [wikipedia.org]

        Also, it ignores the notion of research as a social endeavor.

        Why should people, especially in a resea

  • Glad to see Intel finally catching up.

  • WOW. A stamp sized solar array accompanying a processor provides an indefinite power source?? If so, combine that with pico-electic power from a watch and you might be able to get a wristwatch sized processor to have suffecient power to do simple things like communicate with wi-fi and render simple apps. I think this potential is going to be a sea-change; I can hardly wait.
  • While the whole solar-powered thing is kind of a gimmick, the fact that they have an (x86-compatible?), 'real' CPU (not microcontrollers) operating on 10mW is pretty impressive. This is a level where powering from ambient motion and a user's body heat is also feasible.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday September 16, 2011 @01:08AM (#37417104)

    Would the last person to leave, please DON'T turn off the lights.

  • Booh! Picture shows processor connected to solar panel with 2 wires. (+ and - I presume) Why not go all the way? Solar panels ARE made of silicon. Interweave the transistors into the panel itsels, generating power where needed. And get rid of the 2 ugly wires! Imagine having your CoreI whatever on the roof! (Or more realistically, the processor on the outside of your netbook.)
    • by klingens (147173)

      CPUs are made of monocrystalline Si, solar panels are made by polychristalline Si. Dotation (sp?) is most certainly different as well.

    • by vnsnes (301511)

      Seems like research supports this: ieeexplore.ieee.org/iel5/16/5896011/05773485.pdf?arnumber=5773485

  • Why is everyone doing this "IT RUNS ON SOLAR!!!! crap?

    The Pentium III runs on solar! Give me $600.00 and I'll go to harbor freight and buy 3 of their solar panels kits and run an entire computer from 1999 on solar! Look it's the first solar Desktop computer!

    This is nothing special. I have a VIA C5 processor in a motherboard that draws less than 15 watts when going full boat from 5 years ago that will run on solar. That makes VIA far better at this because they are 5 years ahead of intel!

    everything in m

    • by luther349 (645380)
      yea i know whats a ssd single core atom eeepc draw 35 watts. so a cheap ass 50 watt could charge and run it.

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