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Codebreaker

Breakthrough in circuitry efficiency

John Moe Mar 1, 2011

Hewlett-Packard scientists think they’ve come up with a way to dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed to run a computer. Computing power is based around the microprocessor. That’s the part of the computer that needs to work the hardest and expend the most energy to make those zillions of calculations happen.

The semiconductor industry has long warned about a set of impending bottlenecks described as “the wall,” a point in time where more than five decades of progress in continuously shrinking the size of transistors used in computation will end. If progress stops it will not only slow the rate of consumer electronics innovation, but also end the exponential increase in the speed of the world’s most powerful supercomputers — 1,000 times faster each decade.

A lot of that energy gets used up shuttling data between computation and memory. The new idea is to create the ability to store a lot more memory without having to use energy to move it around.

Within seven years or so, experts estimate that one such chip might store a trillion bytes of memory (about 220 high-definition digital movies) in addition to containing 128 processors.

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