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Standby Power Is an Issue at the IC Scale, Too

We've covered the issue of 'vampire devices": excessive standby power consumption in consumer electronics and other ICT components. As integrated circuits become more power-efficient during operation, their standby power consumption becomes an issue, too. A research group at Japan's Center for Spintronics Integrated Systems and Research Institute of Electrical Communication of Tohoku University together with NEC Corporation (NEC) has developed a standby-power-free large-scale integrated circuit (LSI).

The research team reports, "Recently, standby power consumption in logic VLSIs has become as large as operation power consumption, which calls for an innovation that enables ultra-low standby power to further enhance VLSI performance. Standby-power-free operation can be achieved by nonvolatile data retention in logic LSIs where power supply can be cut off wherever in the chip whenever it is not in operation. A spintronics device composed of a magnetic tunnel junction is currently the only nonvolatile memory candidate for this purpose, because of its high-speed, low-voltage, and non-destructive operation together with virtually infinite read/write endurance." (Spintronics is a field of nanoscale electronics involving the applications of electron spin.)

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