Steep Slope Transistors Provide Benefit of Longer Battery Life for Mobile Phones

EU project to reduce vampire power consumption of electronic devices could result in mobile phones with 10x better battery life

1 min read
Steep Slope Transistors Provide Benefit of Longer Battery Life for Mobile Phones

On Wednesday I covered the announcement from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and IBM that they along with host of other European research institutes were intending to develop better transistors that would eliminate the wasted current that drips through transistor gates.

The project has been dubbed Steeper based on its intentions to create steep slope transistors that exhibit an abrupt change when switching between on and off states.

I focused primarily on its addressing of the issue of vampire energy consumption and how this project could account for much greater energy conservation.

Oddly, considering my recent preoccupation with improving mobile phone batteries and rechargeable batteries in general, I neglected to point out that one of the side benefits of conserving power in electronic devices is that the batteries will last longer. This was pointed out to me in a flurry of tweets on Twitter claiming “Cellphone Battery Life to Improve 10x Thanks to Nanotechnology.”

In my defense for not pointing this out in my original blog entry, I should note that the technology will not improve battery technology, but just improve the electronic devices that the batteries are charging so that they use less energy and drain less power from the batteries.

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Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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