Intel has demonstrated an experimental (not commercial) low-powered microprocessor, based on Near Threshold Voltage (NTV) Processor technology (circuits operate at 400-500mV), that can be powered by a small solar cell (same size as a postage stamp). Code named Claremont, it consumes < 10mW when workload is light, and combined with the Hybrid Memory Cube was capable of running a PC using the Linux OS (the design was based on the Pentium, but much more energy efficient).
The Hybrid Memory Cube, is a concept DRAM developed by Micron in collaboration with Intel, delivering a 7-fold improvement in energy-efficiency over today’s DDR3. Hybrid Memory Cube uses a stacked memory chip configuration, forming a compact “cube,” and uses a new, highly efficient memory interface which sets the bar for energy consumed per bit transferred. Those new technologies raise the prospect of greener computing, allowing longer battery life for mobile devices and powerful, energy-efficient, extreme power saving processors for other scenarios such as extreme scale computing. One goal of the NTV research is in fact to enable architectures where power consumption is so low that entire devices could be powered not only by solar energy, but also by vibrations, thermoelectricity or ambient surrounding wireless signals.
I remember that this scenario was already proposed by Gunter Pauli in his “Blue Economy” book and in many lectures/posts, but now it’s more clear that our future mobile and embedded (IoT) devices will be less dependent from batteries (reducing also pollution due to e-waste) and that the future datacenters needed for the cloud will not keep on wasting so much power using “heat-sink free” CPU.
Intel has in fact a company-wide goal of delivering 300-fold improvement in energy efficiency in high-performance computing over the next 10 years. Meanwhile Intel has announced in march 2011 that it will deliver in 2012 four new processors for the category that span 45 watt high performance to sub-10 watt, all with advanced server features such as 64-bit, Virtualization Technology and Error-Correcting Code. More recently Intel has stated that they are working on a new class of platform power management for Ultrabooks™ that will aid in the delivery of always-on-always-connected computing. Both Google and Microsoft are working with Intel and will leverage Ultrabooks in their Android and Windows 8 platforms.