Two technology advances point to the promise of more more energy-efficient memory. One is described as "nanoscale", the other "atomic scale". The latter comes with a video.
Interest in energy-efficient computing has sparked a Vertatique discussion of energy-sensitive benchmarks beginning in 2007. We originally saw pages per kilowatt hour, "MIPS / Watt" or "Flops / Watt" and Peter Kooge's "performance / joule". More have since been proposed, including one from focused on CO2e, but none have emerged as definitive.
Facebook mentions in passing that its highly efficient Prineville data center uses "Ethernet-powered LED lighting [to] reduce the total energy required to run the facility." Additional information about what exactly Facebook has done is hard to fine. What is Ethernet-powered LED lighting?
ICT products manufacturer Quanta (Taiwan) supplies servers to Facebook and Google, cloud computing giants that spec their own server designs. It is also an investor in multi-core U.S. chip innovator Tilera. These relationships points to the possibility for a new generation of energy-efficient volume servers for cloud computing.
The University of Illinois has had a strong focus on e-waste through its Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI). Now, researchers at the University are experimenting with a technique that would enable electronic circuits to repair themselves. This holds the promise of longer service lives and therefore less e-waste. Here are excerpts from "Autonomic Restoration of Electrical Conductivity" in Advanced Materials.
Apple filed a patent application in December 2011 for a "fuel cell system for a portable computing device". Here are some excerpts from the application speaking the social/market forces to which Apple sees itself responding.
Communications is another area where we pay an energy/heat/carbon price for speed. IEEE Spectrum reported in 2008 that network interface controllers in computers and switching gear consume over 5 terawatt-hours per year in the United States alone. 1/Gb/s links consume 4W more than their 100 Mb/s counterparts and the upcoming 10 Gb/s link could consume 10-20W more. Fortunately, energy-efficient networking is receiving more attention as Green ICT expands beyond the data center.
UK telecom provider BT is working on broadband delivery technology that varies its power in response to demand.
The "latest generation of Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) line cards - which allow up to 20Mbit/s broadband speeds on the last mile of the network - [operates] in an 'always available' rather than 'always fully on' mode…BT’s network infrastructure currently accounts for more than 60 per cent of its carbon footprint and the access network represents a large part." BT reports this new tech - called "cool broadband" - is still under development, but has already been used in a small customer trial.
Innovative field trials in Afghanistan's war zones could be yielding technologies to provide more reliable and greener power for ICT infrastructures in remote areas and in emergency response situations.
Photo courtesy U.S. Marine Corps
We noted a few years ago that heat has become a limiting factor in processor speed. At the same time, we have been following the trend to use low-power chips originally designed for other applications in everything from more efficient supercomputers to lower power servers. Despite all this, the heat barrier continues to loom for ICT progress. 'Dark silicon' is its latest manifestation.