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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 icebike (68054) * on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:12PM (#39096303)

    Yes Intel did demo a solar cell powering a Pentium, but that was merely to make a point about the inefficiencies of near-threshold voltage (NTV) CPUs. They have no particular focus on Solar powered processors.

    Near-threshold voltage (NTV) CPUs are the focus of Intel's research here.
    NTV transistors can switch at voltages just the threshold for the device's powered state, and CPUs made of these can idle along at extremely low voltage doing real work (slower) or they can ramp up the power and work much faster.

    The Register has a much better explanation of this technology [theregister.co.uk] than the linked article.

    The idea is to have devices run at low voltages and power consumption rates that would be akin to a sleep mode in today's chips. And NTV techniques are not just limited to processors used in hand-held devices like smartphones and tablets, but to everything all the way up to exascale supercomputers, says Rattner. The important thing is that NTV techniques allow a chip's performance and power to scale as voltage scales up and down, and to do so across a wide dynamic range.

    Also a good summary here [theregister.co.uk]:

    Marketing spin aside, the "near-threshold voltage" chip is quite an achievement. Intel first revealed in March 2010 that it had a prototype chip running at such low voltages, but Claremont's creators took that technology and baked it into a full IA architecture processor. Based on a Pentium core, Claremont can not only be throttled down to "within a couple of hundred millivolts of the threshold voltage of the transistors," said Intel engineer Sriram Vangal, who demoed the chip during Rattner's turn, but – equally important – it also has a high dynamic range that allows it to be cranked up to deliver ten times the low-power performance by increasing the voltage.

    Once again, the Register does a better job of reporting than Techworld.

  • Re:It's a Race (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catchblue22 (1004569) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @09:54PM (#39096523) Homepage

    When I consider that the human brain is many orders of magnitude more powerful than any electronic computer, and uses only a few hundred calories a day, it makes me realize that our electronic computers have a huge potential for improvement in both energy efficiency and power.

  • Re:It's a Race (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZankerH (1401751) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @10:11PM (#39096595)
    How many FLOPS does that get you at peak performance?

    Saying the human brain is "more powerful" makes no sense by itself. It's better at certain tasks (like pattern recognition, jumping to conclusions and holding contradictory beliefs) because it's hard-wired to do them. When it has to use general-purpose computing (like when you try to do floating-point math), you'll find most computers a great deal faster and more efficient.
  • Re:It's a Race (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:50AM (#39097223)

    the basic rule is that neural networks can solve problems without knowing *how* precisely, and digital computers can do anything if you know exactly how. See the difference? You can't compare brains and computers. They are good at diametrically opposed things and always will be. Thats the law (of physics and computation).

Mathematicians stand on each other's shoulders. -- Gauss

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