Researchers at the University of Washington claim to have created a system they call EnerJ that can reduce energy consumption in computers by 50%, according to results from test simulations. The programmers even say that the new development has the potential to cut energy use by 90% under the right circumstances.
The basic idea behind the project is to set up electronic devices to allow errors to happen during processing by lowering the refresh rate of the memory chip. It might seem odd, but as the developers point out, there are two types of work processors do – precise tasks like data encryption and approximate tasks like audio streaming or imaging. By allowing slight errors to occur during approximate tasks, voltage can be decreased.
The new software can create a physical barrier between tasks so that there is no data leakage from the secure portions to the more lax areas. Only non-essential programs would be shifted to the lower voltage transistors inside the microchip. By altering the software in program functions with a Java-based code, and the hardware in the chips themselves, the team says it may be possible to reduce energy by 90% in everything from cellphones to laptops.
We recently reported that Greenpeace has been releasing some harsh reports about the incredible amount of energy computers and networks are using today. New technology like EnerJ will hopefully curb that growth, lowering environmental impact. A complete analysis of the EnerJ approach is available in a research paper, which can be downloaded in PDF form on the University of Washington’s website.