Technology Patches Electronics Leaking Energy

Your electronics are leaking — leaking energy. Cell phones, laptops, tables even internet routers are leaking energy every moment they are on. Thanks to technology invented in 2003 by by UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Professor Andrew B. Kahng and his then-student Puneet Gupta, that leak has been patched.

Known as “gate-length biasing,” the technology subtly modifies the dimensions of transistors, the tiny switches that control the flow of electricity in an integrated circuit. This approach exploits the fact that slower transistors leak less power. The invention essentially ensures that transistors on a chip are as slow as possible without affecting performance.

gatebias

image via UC San Diego

Big deal, you say? According to UC San Diego, gate length biasing recently passed the trillion watt-hour milestone in energy savings, according to the technology’s current licensee, Tela Innovations. With residential energy costs at just over 11 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the savings are significant and growing, so far totaling well over $100 million that consumers haven’t been charged on their electricity bills. That is a big deal.

“The key is figuring out which of the hundreds of millions of transistors on the chip to modify,” said Kahng. “Many, but not all, of the transistors can be made slower without affecting the clock frequency. We developed a tool to maximize leakage power savings without affecting product performance, and we created a flow to make this transparent and easy for both designers and manufacturers.”

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.