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Posted: May 12, 2009
'Cool-Silicon-Cluster' develops technologies to reduce energy consumption of chips
(Nanowerk News) In coming years Saxony will develop technologies on a large scale that will significantly reduce energy consumption of microchips and information technology. In September 2008 a jury of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research selected a group of companies and research institutes in micro- and nanoelectronics, as well as information and communication technology for a top level research project. Today the group, called the 'Cool-Silicon-Cluster', which is located in the Dresden area, officially starts its project financed by both the Federal and the State governments. The setup of the cluster organization as well as the identification of all projects only took several months.
"There is a global conflict between the goal of a free participation in world-wide communications for all and the need to protect the climate. We must reduce energy consumption in the field of information technology significantly enough so that these two goals do not collide", says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Fettweis, Coordinator and Head of the research project, and Chair for Mobile Communications Systems at the Technische Universität Dresden. The innovations developed in Dresden in the coming years can therefore also be considered as "conflict-resolution technology."
According to Dr. Eva-Maria Stange, Saxony State Minister of Higher Education, Research and the Fine Arts, "there are hardly any other locations in Europe" that suits this research project as well as Saxony does: "The collaboration between regional companies, Universities, and research institutes - all of them already at the very top in the research field - will now be intensified, and potentials better mobilized. This will help us move to the top of international development in the field of micro/nanotechnology, and energy technology."
Dr. Wolf-Dieter Lukas, Director General for Key Technologies Research at the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, also expresses high hopes for the 'Cool Silicon Cluster': "We expect the cluster will create an innovation boost which will further strengthen Dresden as a location for the semiconductor industry. By focusing on energy-efficient electronics the group has taken on a central topic for future development". Dr. Lukas today also promised substantial contributions from his Ministry for a number of 'Cool Silicon Cluster' projects. By June most of the submitted projects should be approved. Altogether the federal government as the initiator of the cluster research will make 40 Million Euro in funding available.
The number of Saxony's Cluster-Partners is growing
Additional support for the cluster is provided by the State of Saxony. About 64 cluster partners are encouraged to submit project proposals. "Saxony's State Ministry for Economic Affairs and Labor supports 'Cool Silicon' through technology aid", says Barbara Meyer, Head of Business Development at the Ministry. "Our goal is to strengthen the global competitiveness of Saxony's companies". With the funds from the Saxony's Ministry of Science and the Arts, the cluster will be able to apply for funds totaling more than 100 Million Euro in the coming years. Combined with contributions from Cool Silicon partners a total volume of more than 150 Million Euro will be available.
The time frame for the research project is five years, but participants expect the project to continue on. "The research will result in applications and products, and it certainly will create jobs," says Heinz Martin Esser, CEO of Silicon Saxony Management GmbH, who is responsible for the cluster's administration. "Also the number of our partners will continually grow."
Today the three lead projects of 'Cool Silicon', which are expected to spin-off dozens of other projects were introduced in Dresden: 'Cool Computing', 'Cool Reader', and 'Cool Sensomet'.
'CoolComputing' - Less Energy Consumption through Optimization in Design, Production, and System Integration
The project 'CoolComputing' will evaluate the entire value chain of computing platforms for energy efficiency. "To reach our goal we will optimize every part of the processor; even the circuit design and - by employing newly developed intelligent software - the system integration of various electronic parts from the processor to the power supply", says Stephan Krüger (Globalfoundries, Dresden) who heads the 'CoolComputing' project.
"In earlier days we only used to ask: How can we make our chips faster? Today we ask: How can we make our chips more energy efficient and faster at the same time? We can expect that reduced energy consumption will also have a positive effect on the processor speed." One practical example is high performance and energy efficient transistors on the basis of high permissive gate-dielectrics and metal-gate electrodes, which are one of the 'CoolComputing's goals.
'CoolReader': New Options for Books and Newspapers in the Digital Age
E-paper, a lightweight but robust device to read digital content is another of 'Cool Silicon's' projects. In combination with photovoltaic cells adjusted to the product, the mobile device can load newspapers and documents via mobile communications system while maintaining near energy autarky, meaning: there is no need for the device to be plugged into an outlet for recharge.
This way online newspapers can be replaced by electronic newspapers. Prof. Dr. Frank Ellinger (TU Dresden), Head of Communication Technology at Cool Silicon presenting the 'Cool Reader' project: "A new electronic mobile end-device will be developed, which replaces the 'good old' newspaper or the book. It supplies itself almost completely with solar energy. As a result energy consumption in the sector of information transmission can be reduced to a third, for instance because less paper needs to be produced.
"The device we are about to develop will become a showpiece for climate protection", Prof. Ellinger predicts. An additional goal of the project is to utilize research results for other mobile end-devices, to increase energy efficiency and user comfort, while decreasing the cost of devices: "This indicates a promising market potential".
'CoolSensomet': Guardian Angels in Air Traffic
Sensor networks can be employed to survey and evaluate durability of primary structural elements. But they utilize energy from power cable supply, making them liable for many applications. For Airplanes for example, whose wings regularly need to be examined for material fatigue.
The third 'Cool Silicon' lead project therefore is devoted to the development of sensor nodes with integrated acoustic piezoelectric sensors, which shall be incorporated into the lightweight construction of wings made from carbon-fiber compound, and into other primary structural elements during fabrication of the airplane. Their energy supply is self-sufficient, since the necessary energy is derived from the mechanical vibration of the evaluated structure itself. The energy created lasts to continuously transmit the results wirelessly.
Dr. Dieter Hentschel of the Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing (IZFP) in Dresden, who spearheads this lead project, comments: "Such a permanent control method increases passenger security. It's like being watched by technical guardian angels."
Dr. Hentschel can also imagine other applications for such systems: "Rotor blades of wind generators and helicopters, pipelines, significant parts of automobiles, train wheel sets, and buildings can be continuously and reliably monitored with such technology."