IDF 2011: Intels Shows a PC Running on Solar Power

Subject: General Tech, Processors | September 13, 2011 - 10:22 AM |
Tagged: solar power, solar cell, idf 2011, idf

While on stage during today's opening keynote at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed of a prototype processor running completely on a very small solar cell.

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Paul on the left, Windows 7 in the center, prototype ultra-low power CPU on the right

Running Windows 7 and a small animated GIF of a cat wearing headphones, the unannounced CPU was being powered only by a small solar panel with a UV light pointed at it.  Though Intel didn't give us specific voltages or power consumption numbers they did say that it was running at "close to the threshold of the transistors".  Assuming we are talking about the same or similar 22nm tri-gate transistors used in Haswell, we found this:

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My mostly uneducated guess then was that they were able to run Windows 7 and this animation on a processor running somewhere around 0.1-0.2v; an impressive feat that would mean wonders for standby time and the all-day computing models.  This is exactly what Intel's engineers have been targeting with their transistor and CPU designs in the last couple of years as it will allow Haswell to scale from desktop performance levels all the way to the smart phone markets on a single architecture.

Keep in mind only the CPU was being powered by the solar cell; the rest of the components including the hard drive, motherboard, etc were being powered by a standard power unit.

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You can see the solar panel and UV light on the right hand side of this photo.  Interestingly, when the presenter moved his hand between the light source and the panel, the system locked up, proving that it was indeed being powered by it. 

Source: PCPer

New Solar Cell Enhanced LCDs Could Improve Mobile Device Battery Life

Subject: Displays, Mobile | August 12, 2011 - 01:51 AM |
Tagged: solar cell, mobile, lcd, display

According to Ars Technica, researchers at UCLA announced on Tuesday a new LCD screen containing photovoltaic cells that promises to reduce back-light energy waste and improve battery life on mobile devices.

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My N900 eats up battery with an hour of Angry Birds, but can go for two days with the display off. Where's my happy medium? 

The researchers have placed what they are calling polarizing organic photovoltaics inside the LCDs in such a way that light that is normally filtered out and blocked in areas to create the displayed images can now be (mostly) recovered. While the process does not result in 100% reclamation of energy due to energy loss during the conversion process(es) and heat given off by the back-light, in a mobile device any amount of energy that can be recovered is desirable. Ars Technica states that up to 90% of a battery’s power is used to power the back-light of the display. Further, of that percentage, up to 75% is lost to the polarizing layers. By infusing the polarizing layer with photovoltaic cells and reclaiming as much of the otherwise wasted light as possible, battery life could be dramatically extended.

Mobile devices are getting beefier multi-core processors and graphics chips, numerous wireless radio connections (4G, WiFi, Bluetooth), and large power hungry displays; however, battery technology advancements have been rather stagnant and flat. As a result of this, having to make processors, displays, and other components as efficient as possible to make up the difference of battery technology not keeping up with other advancements, interesting tweaks like the photovoltaic infused displays become that much more important.

Whether this particular technology will catch on and work as well as they claim remains to be seen; however it is nonetheless an interesting experiment. More data on the researchers’ project will be published in the Advanced Materials journal in September 2011. What are your thoughts on the idea?

Source: Ars Technica