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Old 27th October, 2010, 06:49 PM
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Researchers attack transistors to slay vampire power

The European Union is sponsoring a multimillion-dollar research project to boost the efficiency of everyday electronics and choke the constant flow of wasted energy from their chips.

The three-year effort, called Project Steeper, promises to result in gadgets that operate 10 times longer on a battery charge and don't lose energy to standby--or vampire--power, researchers say. Although there are many different ways to improve efficiency in computing, the focus of this work is on the basic building block of all electronics, the transistor.

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Old 28th October, 2010, 05:28 PM
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I'm a little confused on this...

Standby mode "wastes" power through transistor leakage apparently? I'd argue that poor design probably wastes more power than the transistors use.

I think that the issue is that "standby" mode often isn't standby mode at all, but somewhat active mode. Dropping a computer into "sleep" mode doesn't turn it off - there's still a fair bit of activity going on to keep memory alive for example. Putting a machine in "hibernate" mode pretty much reduces the power consumption to nothing, power supply dependant.
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Old 29th October, 2010, 06:06 PM
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Managing the power consumption of ICs is getting steadily more complicated, because the leakage of transistors is getting higher and higher as the feature size gets smaller and smaller.

Used to be, simply not using the transistor was sufficient, as it would only consume power when switching states. Now, however, even when not doing anything a transistor can consume upwards of as high as 30% of its switching power while simply sitting there doing nothing.

The only way around this is to implement circuitry that can completely remove power from a significant portion of the system when it is not being used, or figure out how to build transistors that don't leak.

Shutting down portions of the system increases the complexity of the design without adding any real value to the system in terms of its functionality, so finding a way to reduce the leakage is something that the designers would really like.

As you point out, "standby" mode doesn't really shut everything down; it simply shuts MOST stuff down. That's the consequence of having systems with 'soft off' circuity; something's got to be active to monitor that power button.

Do most things NEED a 'soft off' feature? Arguably, no. At most, the 'soft off' button reduces startup time, but most devices that have such technology don't take that long to start up from a completely powered-down state anyway. The only other reason I can think of off the top of my head for 'soft off' would be for things that have some sort of remote activation feature, as something has to remain powered to detect the remote signals.

Last edited by Gizmo; 29th October, 2010 at 06:07 PM.
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Old 1st November, 2010, 09:13 PM
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Project "Steeper?" Guessing that they meant "Sleeper." If 15% of a national grid is really needed to keep things on standby, more power to 'em. Oops, pun, sorry.
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Old 18th November, 2010, 09:27 PM
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Why not just turn the devices off when you don't need them?
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Old 23rd December, 2010, 09:05 PM
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Once upon a time our electricity generated by hydroelectric dams was nearly too cheap to meter. Thank goodness those days are over!
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Old 12th January, 2011, 11:23 PM
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Hate to have to heat a house via baseboard heaters, the bills would be beyond painful.
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