It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody when they here about tech companies trying to make the things we use more energy efficient. But recently the tech industry has taken a serious boost forward in pursuit of zero-day-dissipation IC technology. The Japanese Rohm Co Ltd is at the forefront of developments and they are designing custom chips for a number of equipment manufacturers. Rohm is the same company that created a prototype microprocessor back in 2008 and with the completion of its production line in Kyoto Rohm can now begin shipping custom IC's with equipment using the new IC's as early as the end of this year.
However, Rohm Co Ltd isn't the only company trying this same feat. NEC Corp out of Japan isn't far behind Rohm Co. The company has designed their very own chips the reportedly run faster than Rohm's and the company even completed verification of the chip in 2008. NEC plans to prototype a system-on-chip (SoC) in the next few years to prepare for commercialization. These zero-day-dissipation Integrated Circuits (IC's) are made with nonvolatile logic as well as merged memory. Now chips using nonvolatile merged memory aren't new. Many of them exist like micro-controllers with flash memory. However, these new chips use nonvolatile logic as well. Registers that temporarily store your computational results are made nonvolatile. This allows logic circuits to continue normal operations even after power is shut off and restored. Power supply circuits as well as analog circuits that are on the chip don't need data retention. This means power to the entire chip can be cut off in standby making a zero-standby-dissipation IC.
Companies like NEC and Rohm believe technology like this will give us significant savings in our power consumption without the sacrifice of equipment convenience. In a statement from a member of the Device Platform Research Laboratories at NEC, "We'll be able to cut dissipation for digital consumer electronics in the standby mode to just a few percent of what it is now." He also added, in terms of annual electricity costs, "That could add up to hundreds of millions of yen in savings in Japan alone." The equipment talked about could also return from standby to normal operating mode instantaneously.
A worker from Rohm also stated that, "Normally-off equipment will become possible, turning itself on only when power is needed." Rohm demonstrated in 2008 with its microprocessor in normally-off operation. When in this mode it cut dissipation by 70% from conventional designs. "This technology has enormous potential in applications such as games, where the system is usually sitting and waiting for player input." Rohm explains. With the way this technology is going, we could see a major piece of technology that is desperately needed, a device that can save people money. Cash is tight enough as it is and it is really good to see technology companies, like Rohm and NEC, doing all they can to make things more energy efficient and cheaper to use.