Going Green: Inventions to Support Sustainable Energy Systems in Computing

Going Green: Inventions to Support Sustainable Energy Systems in Computing
Page content

The Need for Green Computer Technologies

Going-green inventions in computer technology are getting widespread attention, in order to put in place sustainable energy systems in a computer-driven economy. Energy efficiency is regarded as the most promising solution to CO2 reduction to mitigate the effects of global warming.

In fact, scientists and innovators are challenged to meet the 100%-renewable-energy-by-2030-goal, based on a study released by the Energy Policy Journal. The strategy to meet this goal is not just about building turbines and panels to harness wind, solar and water energy sources. It’s also about creating and developing systems for sustainable energy use in order to close the gap between supply and demand.

According to the Energy Policy study, building renewable energy systems has its own challenges. In order to provide constancy and consistency in energy supply, these projects also require the use of rare earth materials. To overcome this obstacle, there are now campaigns to support sustainable energy use, as this is touted as the key to realize a global goal of totally veering away from fossil fuel dependency.

In line with this, we present the latest going-green inventions and innovations for computers, because the need for green computer technologies stem from the fact that people from all over the world have been drawn together, as one global community, through computing.

Image Credit: RedAndr at en.Wikipedia

The Yill by Younicos–Cordless Mobile Energy Storage Unit to Power a Modern Workstation

Yill by Younicos

Get a load of this latest innovation from Younicos AG, a company with a mission statement that says, “Let the fossils rest in peace.” In line with the company’s commitment to meet the global vision of producing energy power without CO2 emissions, Younicos and its staff of 40 people came up with Yill.

One of the main problems in the use of renewable energy for computers is the tendency of solar and wind power to fluctuate. Now Yill addresses this problem by providing an energy storage unit that can hoard as much as two to three days of electrical energy by way of a lithium titanium battery.

The lithium-titanium battery is regarded as a safer, faster and more durable alternative to lithium-ion technology, which has been proven to have a propensity to ignite if met by certain conditions. As a titanium-enhanced lithium battery, the internal resistance is reduced and reduced resistance means less battery juice lost as heat. This then allows the retention and storage of more energy.

Younicos has made titanium-lithium technology more useful by developing Yill, since it can furnish a modern workstation with up to 300 watts of electricity. The best part about it is that, if you’re drawing electricity from a power grid, it allows the integration of renewable energy to offset some of the grid power demand. Either way, you can store energy via a renewable energy charge station or simply plug it into any conventional socket to quick-charge the batteries.

As cordless office-equipment, Yill presents the additional benefit of letting you set up an office workstation in a layout that doesn’t have to conform to electrical sockets placement. It is mobile and flexible enough to be where power is needed.

Additional technical data:

  • Nominal voltage 220 volts
  • Energy content: Approx. 1 kWh
  • Maximum input voltage: 230 volts
  • Maximum input current: 1.2 ampere

Image Credit: Younicos AG

The Multi-Core Voltage Regulator (MCVR) by Wonyoung Kim – A DC-DC Converter Chip: Likely Solution to Reduce the Heat Output of Laptop Processors

MCVR by Wonyoung Kim

Harvard graduate student Wonyoung Kim has created an on-chip multi-core voltage regulator to scale down the power demand of smaller-sized but multi-tasking devices, as it aims to match power supply with demand. This presents a better alternative to the modern processing chips that draw stored energy by powering-up all application processors, even if only one is employed. This is said to be one reason why multi-tasking mobile devices need recharging after only four hours of use.

Kim describes the MCVR as “like shutting off the lights when you leave home” since the regulator will fine-tune power by releasing energy only to the processor currently in use; all other application processors not in use will not receive power. This denotes energy saved and longer battery life

Image Credit : Wonyoung Kim for Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Please proceed to the next page to read more about the MCVR and other going-green inventions.

The Multi-Core Voltage Regulator (MCVR): Going-Green Invention by Wonyoung Kim (continued)

MCVR scaling illustrated

Basically, the on-chip design manages power supply not only for the processor but for each individual core on the chip. Kindly view the image on your left as it illustrates how the voltage regulator is integrated to each IC chip. As Kim explains, “The short distance that signals then have to travel between the voltage regulator and the cores allows power scaling to happen quickly—in a matter of nanoseconds rather than microseconds—further improving efficiency.”

The Harvard graduate student estimates that the greatest demand will initially come from the mobile phone market. He also foresees the MCVR’s potential for reducing the heat output of laptop processors as well as reducing the costs of powering-up servers as they cope with the demand for speed and capacity.

Kim’s overall assessment is that the integration of the MCVR on a chip will increase manufacturing costs by 10% but the potential savings in power would be 20% or more.

Image Courtesy of Wonyoung Kim

Eye Pressure Monitor by the University of Michigan College of Engineering – Millimeter-Scale Complete Computing System

759px-Ann Arbor at Liberty Street

Research scientists in the University Of Michigan (UM) Department Of Electrical Engineering developed the first millimeter-scale complete computing system. It is intended for medical applications in the form of an implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients.

The prototype was presented last February 2011 as a tiny package of about 1 cubic millimeter; the complete computing system is composed of an ultra low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, a thin film battery, memory, a wireless radio with antenna that has the capability to transmit data to an external device held near the eye, and a solar cell.

In fact, the microprocessor used for the eye pressure monitor is the third-generation development of their Phoenix chip. The latter is designed with a unique power-gating system and a tremendous sleep-mode feature that allows ultra-low power consumption. As a medical device used in the treatment of glaucoma patients, the system wakes up every 15 minutes to take measurements and store up to a week’s worth of medical information. It consumes an average of only 5.3 nanowatts and can be quick-charged with 1.5 hours of exposure to sunlight. For indoor-light charging it requires around ten hours of exposure to keep the battery charged.

The university’s researchers are geared toward the development of complete computing systems that make use of low power components that fit on a chip, which can collect, store and transmit data for which they foresee a host of possible applications. The device, however, is expected to be commercially available several years from now, as the University of Michigan’s researchers are still working on equipping it with a minuscule compact radio that can talk to other devices.This feature will enhance its capabilities as a going-green invention, since it will enable the system to network with other wireless sensors.

Please proceed to the next page for more information about the minuscule compact radio being developed by the University of Michigan’s Department of Engineering and Computer Science.

Image Credit: Gsgeorge at en.wikipedia

The 60GHz Antenna-Referenced Frequency-Locked Loop for Wireless Sensor Networks - UM’s Dept. of Engineering and Science

Another group of researchers coming from the University Of Michigan’s Department of Engineering and Computer Science have already developed the first integrated antenna, which enables the radio on the chip to work without need for external tuning. Once these antennae are deployed as part of a network, they will automatically align at the same frequency. The researchers are still working on the radio’s power consumption in order to match the power capacity of millimeter-scale batteries.

Inasmuch as these networks could be used for other purposes like tracking pollution, for monitoring structural integrity, for performing surveillance, or for making any object virtually observable, the research scientists are seeking commercialization partners in order to bring this green computer technology to the market.

Other Notable Going-Green Innovations for Sustainable Energy Use

  • The Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) by University of Massachusetts-Lowell and University of Glasgow scientists: These are micro-chips in which more than 1,000 mini-circuits are turned into 1,000 core-processors. That way, users can configure them to work on their own instructions rather than by their factory-set functions. The FPGA is said to be capable of processing an algorithm at a speed of 5 gigabytes per second, which is 20 times faster than that of current high-end desktop computers; hence it is regarded as another solution for sustainable energy use.

480px-Intel Nehalem arch.svg

  • 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ i7: The integration of these Intel Core processors in communication and computer systems eliminates the need for discrete graphic cards, which reduces power consumption and lowers system cost.

  • Western Digital’s My Passport Essential portable drivers are small enough to keep in one’s shirt pocket requiring no external power source.

In looking back at most of the going-green inventions featured above, we perceive what the scientists at the University of Michigan have referred to as the future of the computer industry in accordance with Bells’ Law: “There’s a new class of smaller, cheaper computers about every decade. With each new class, the volume shrinks by two orders of magnitude and the number of systems per person increases”.

Image Credit: Appaloosa for Wikimedia Commons

Reference Materials: