University of Michigan researchers have developed a microchip that can sleep on very little power, and can therefore be powered by a battery as small as the chip itself.
Called Phoenix, the processor could have applications in biomedical sensors, since a device based on this chip could be very small, and would theoretically have a long life.
"Low power consumption allows us to reduce battery size and thereby overall system size. Our system, including the battery, is projected to be 1,000 times smaller than the smallest known sensing system today," said university professor David Blaauw.
The ultra-low power consumption is achieved through very narrow power gates, which do not leak very much current when in sleep mode. This results in a performance hit, which is why most processors use wider gates. To compensate, Phoenix designers increased the processor's operating voltage when awake by 20 percent. Even so, this trade off still leaves the processor running on 0.5 volts, less than half the voltage of comparable devices.