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EU Project Confronts Enery Consumption In Gadgets

The European Union is funding a major research initiative that aims to lower the amount of energy used by electronic devices and extend battery life.

Scientists at European universities, research institutes and technology companies plan to use nanotechnology to reduce the power consumption of devices such as mobile phones, laptops, televisions and supercomputers.

The EU said that the scientists will focus on tunnel field effect transistors and semiconducting nanowires to achieve the improved efficiencies.

The end goal of the Steeper project is to reduce the operating value of the devices to less than 0.5V, which would represent a tenfold increase in energy efficiency.

Steeper also aims to eliminate power consumption when devices are in passive or standby modes, as standby power already accounts for about 10 per cent of the electricity used in homes and offices, according to EU estimates.

"Our vision is to share this research to enable manufacturers to build the Holy Grail in electronics: a computer that uses negligible energy when it's in sleep mode which we call the zero-watt PC," said Professor Adrian M Ionescu at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, which is helping to co-ordinate the project.

Dr Heike Riel, who is leading the group at IBM, added: "Power dissipation has become one of the major challenges for today's electronics, particularly as the number of devices used by businesses and consumers multiplies globally.

"We aim to significantly reduce the power consumption of the basic building blocks of integrated circuits, affecting the smallest consumer electronics to massive supercomputers."

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