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Halloween treat: IBM scientists target energy vampires

Posted October 31, 2010

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— Researchers at IBM are teaming with scientists in Europe to reduce so-called “phantom” energy use by idle electronic and other devices.

The combined use of these devices, such as set-top boxes for cable TV, videogame consoles and PCs and laptop computers, can cost consumers as much as 10 percent of their monthly power bill, IBM says.

Noting statistics from a variety of sources, IBM calls this energy use as “vampire power.”

On Wednesday, IBM announced plans to work with the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne to develop means of increasing energy efficiency by idle devices.

"Our vision is to share this research to enable manufacturers to build the Holy Grail in electronics, a computer that utilizes negligible energy when it's in sleep mode, which we call the zero-watt PC," said Adrian Ionescu, a professor at the Nanolab at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. He is coordinating the project.

Researchers believe nanowires in semiconductors can be used to slice energy use.

IBM and the researchers are developing what they call “steep slope transistors” that can reduce power by enabling a more rapid transition between “on” and “off.”

The effort is called “Project Steeper.”

"Power dissipation has become one of the major challenges for today's electronics, particularly as the number of devices used by businesses and consumers multiplies globally," said Heike Riel, the director of nanoscale electronic development at IBM’s labs in Switzerland.

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