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Intel Hardware

Intel Gets Serious With Solar-powered CPU Tech 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-in-the-sun dept.
angry tapir writes "Intel's experimental solar-powered processor may have started off as a fun project, but the chip maker is now looking to extend the technology to hardware such as graphics processors, memory and floating point units. Intel last year showed the low-power processor — charged only by the light from a reading lamp — running Windows and Linux PCs. Intel is expected to share further details about the processor, which is code-named Claremont, at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. The company is also expected to reveal information about efforts to integrate wireless capabilities into Atom chips for mobile devices."
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Intel Gets Serious With Solar-powered CPU Tech

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  • by Theovon (109752) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:50PM (#39096513)

    I'm not sure what transistor geometry Clairmont is manufactured at, but for really small transistors (e.g. 32nm), process variation is a serious problem, making it hard to scale voltage down that low. The results are unpredictable performance from die-to-die and within die and major reliability problems. Static RAMs are hit the hardest, because they use the smallest transistors. "http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~millerti/parichute-camera.pdf" is an example of a paper that explores the consequences of ultra-low voltage SRAMs and tries to solve it with forward error correction.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:55PM (#39096529) Homepage

    I was running a processor off of solar years ago. using the VIA C3 processors from 4 years ago. Glad to see Intel catching up to the rest of the industry.

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @10:15PM (#39096609)

    Power is proportional to switching frequency and to the square of the supply voltage. Reducing the supply voltage is the main vehicle to reduce power consumption, but with standard CMOS you run into the problem that transistors leak a little current when they're run at or near the threshold voltage because they don't turn off completely (you need significantly more than the threshold voltage for that.)
    So in a totem pole circuit (used in standard CMOS) current leaks straight from Vcc to ground - not good. They must have designed some tricky circuits that avoid this current path although the transistors are still conducting a little.
    Of course the real reason behind this is that even standard CMOS designs suffer from leakage -- the smaller the more leakage -- so they can apply these techniques to standard designs as well. That will probably be a necessity at some point beyond 22nm.

  • by froggymana (1896008) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @10:43PM (#39096705)

    But you also forgot that your processor is running 10x slower. That blender render will then also take approx. 10x longer, so no you don't get a magical boost in processing power.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Sunday February 19, 2012 @10:53PM (#39096743)

    Essentially a throttle, but more likely a demand based system, such that non-busy processors can run at the lowest possible speed and voltage, and when work stacks up, it ramps up.

    Great for the smart phone in your pocket which has nothing to do for hours at a time other than check the email and listen for calls.
    Since its screen is off, you really don't care how fast it does those things as long as they are just barely fast enough.

    There is a great deal of "stare time" that happens when people look at computers, and the processors are spinning away all the time while you are reading this. They could just as well drop to an extremely low power state, and wait for a mouse move, finger tap, or something else.

    This much we've been doing all along, for the last 20 years. But power consumption still remained high, because even simple tasks like checking the clock to see if its time to increment that digital time read out took processing power, and historically any use of the processor kept it awake at something like full power for that task.

    Now, those tasks can be performed at extremely low power, without ramping up the speed. Only when the processor can't meet the demand would the system increase the voltage and speed up the chip.

  • Sunscreen (Score:2, Informative)

    by erick99 (743982) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Sunday February 19, 2012 @11:41PM (#39096939)
    I don't about using my computer outside, especially in the summer when it's very hot and in the winter when it's very cold. I might be able to manage spring & fall but not on windy days as my papers would fly about.

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