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Intel Ponders Solar-Powered CP­ Tech in Graphics, Memory

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Intel's Claremont CPU

Intel's low-power CPU, code-named Claremont, can remain at near-threshold voltage levels when not operational.

Credit: Low-Power Engineering Community

Intel is working to extend its experimental solar-powered processor technology to hardware such as graphics processors, memory, and floating point units. Intel's solar central processing unit (CPU), code-named Claremont, features near-threshold voltage (NTV) technology, which enables it to keep operating at extremely low voltage levels. The CPU's power consumption could reach as little as 280 millivolts when running at 3 MHz, and up to 1.2 volts when running at about 1 Ghz.

Intel's Justin Rattner says the NTV CPU is designed to bring extreme energy efficiency to computing devices. He notes that the experimental CPU can stay at near-threshold voltage levels when not operational, which could keep devices operational without draining battery life. "The design has generated an extraordinary amount of interest," Rattner says.

The next goal is to extend the technology to other key components inside a computer. The solar-powered CPU is based on a Pentium chip design, and the researchers converted the logic circuit to operate at near-threshold voltage. Rattner says Intel also is working to incorporate NTV technology into the circuitry used for supercomputers.

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