Currently, microprocessors waste a lot of energy by not shutting down parts of themselves that aren’t in use at the moment. Wonyoung Kim, a graduate student at the University of Harvard has designed a power saving mechanism that puts the various parts of the microprocessor to sleep right away after they aren’t used.
“If you’re listening to music on your MP3 player, you don’t need to send power to the image and graphics processors at the same time,” Kim says. “If you’re just looking at photos, you don’t need to power the audio processor or the HD video processor.”
“It’s like shutting off the lights when you leave the room.”
His invention is called a “multi-core-voltage regulator” (MCVR)and was invented only in theory a few years ago, but now technology allows for it to be implemented in existing hardware infrastructures.
The MCVR is basically a DC to DC converter, and can take voltages from 2.4 volts down to 0.4 to 1.4 volts on the fly, being able to increase/decrease the output by 1 Volt in as little as 20 nanoseconds (unlike some microseconds in conventional power saving systems already in use).
“This is a plug-and-play device in the sense that it can be easily incorporated into the design of processor chips,” says Kim. “Including the MCVR on a chip would add about 10 percent to the manufacturing cost, but with the potential for 20 percent or more in power savings.”
Kim’s device could find immediate and precious use in mobile phones, laptops and tablets, where thickness and speed are developing in inverse proportion. And there’s the power consumption, that is actually the #1 purpose of all this.