MIT researchers and Texas Instruments have developed a new chip that's ten times more energy-efficient than the current generation. This new chip uses so little power that it could be recharged by human body heat:
The MIT researchers claim in a university report that implantable medical devices such as pacemakers and health monitors using the new chip could be powered indefinitely by a person's body heat or motion without the need for a battery.
At the very least, however, the researchers say the new technology could lead to cell phones, handheld computers, and remote sensors that last far longer when running from a battery.
According to Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering, the key to the improvement in energy efficiency was finding ways to make the circuits on the chip work at a voltage level much lower than usual. While most current chips operate at around 1.0 volt, the new design works at just 0.3 volts.
"Memory and logic circuits have to be redesigned to operate at very low power supply voltages," says Chandrakasan, who directs the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories, where the work was conducted.
One key to the new chip design, Chandrakasan says, was to build a high-efficiency DC-to-DC converter—which reduces the voltage to the lower level—right on the same chip, reducing the number of separate components. The redesigned memory and logic, along with the DC-to-DC converter, are all integrated to realize a complete system-on-a-chip solution.