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Threshold Voltage: Intel Reveal Solar Power Chip For Always On PC’s

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Intel are toying with a computer processor, codenamed Claremont, a concept IA core using power so low that it can be ran off a small solar cell.

This tech breakthough will lead to greener computing, always-on devices, longer battery life and energy-efficient use in handhelds to servers, and even supercomputers, Intel believe.

Intel CTO Justin Rattner demonstrated the experimental device to developers this week on the 3rd day of the Intel Developer Forum held in San Francisco.

NTV circuits operate around 400-500 millivolts, close to the “threshold” voltage at which transistors turn on and begin to conduct current. Most digital designs operate at nominal voltages – about 1V today.

Running at such reduced voltages has been a “challenge” to date, say the makers.

Energy consumption reaches an absolute minimum in the NTV regime with a ~5-10X improvement over nominal operation.

“The key challenge is to lock-in this excellent energy efficiency benefit at NTV while mitigating performance loss,” say Intel and may be integrated in to a slew of electronic devices like smartphones and tabs and appliances.

One goal of NTV research is to enable “zero power” architectures where power consumption is so low that we could power entire digital devices off solar energy, or off the energy that surrounds us every day in the form of vibrations and ambient wireless signals. 

This gives us unfettered freedom so we can just leave our power cord and chargers behind. NTV would also allowing computers to “see” and intelligently “react” to the world around us.

NTV research is quickly maturing and the processor is a key enabler for ‘Extreme Scale Computing, which means achieving 1000x performance using 10x the power.

“This could help us realize massive Exa-scale supercomputers or put trillions of computations per second in our pockets, while being environmentally-aware.”