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IBM, European Union team to swat electronic vampires

IBM, EU Sleeper project wants to reduce impact of computer equipment in stand-by mode

By Layer 8 on Thu, 10/28/10 - 12:03pm.

IBM and an number of European academic and corporate scientists  today announced a project known as Sleeper that aims to reduce the energy used by everything from mobile phones to laptops and televisions to supercomputers by 10-fold.

The problem?  The enormous amount of electricity sucked up by computer equipment in standby mode. In the European Union it is estimated that the  vampire effect of standby power already accounts for about 10 % of the electricity used in homes and offices of the member States. By 2020 it is expected that electricity consumption in standby/off-mode will rise to 49 terrawatt hours per year - nearly equivalent to the annual electricity consumption for Austria, Czech Republic and Portugal combined, according to a press release from IBM.

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Moreover, electronic devices currently account for 15% of household electricity consumption, and energy consumed by information and communications technologies as well as consumer electronics will double by 2022 and triple by 2030 to 1,700 Terawatt hours -- this is equal to the total residential electricity consumption of the United States and Japan in 2009, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

"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 Prof. Adrian Ionescu, Nanolab, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, who is coordinating the project. With the support of the European Commission's 7th Framework Program (FP7), project Steeper scientists will explore novel nanoscale building blocks for computer chips that aim to reduce the operating voltage to less than 0.5 Volt, thus reducing their power consumption by one order of magnitude.

The main focus of the project is to develop what's known as tunnel field effect transistors and semiconducting nanowires to reduce electricity that "leaks" from electronics.

Coordinated by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Project Steeper includes IBM Research - Zurich, Infineon and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, University of Bologna, University of Dortmund, University of Udine and the University of Pisa and others.  

The project is underway and is expected to last 36 months.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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