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Updated: September 2, 2010 19:12 IST

Dark silicon chip to boost smartphone battery life

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A man walks past a banner at a smartphones conference in Silicon Valley. File photo
AP A man walks past a banner at a smartphones conference in Silicon Valley. File photo

Researchers at University of California, San Diego are using “dark silicon” - the underused transistors in modern microprocessors - to improve smartphone efficiency.

Dark silicon refers to the huge swaths of silicon transistors on today’s chips that are underused because there is not enough power to utilize all the transistors at the same time.

The new GreenDroid chip prototype will deliver improved performance through the specialized processors fashioned from dark silicon that designed to run heavily used chunks of code, called “hot code,” in Google’s Android smartphone platform.

The UC San Diego computer scientists developed a fully automated system, which generates blueprints for specialized processors, called conservation cores, from source code extracted from applications.

GreenDroid conservation core uses 11 times less energy per instruction and produces an increase in efficiency of 7.5 times compared to an aggressive mobile application processor.

“Smartphones are a perfect match for our approach, since users spend most of their time running a core set of applications, and they demand long battery life,” said Steven Swanson at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The computer scientists chose a smartphone for their chip prototype because mobile handsets are the new dominant computing platform. “Smartphones are going to be everywhere,” said Goulding, “We said to ourselves, ‘let’s make a prototype chip that saves energy on Android phones.’”




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