The board level is already a predominantly DC world, with AC-to-DC conversion usually done in an AC/DC power supply and often to a 12V distribution voltage. Thereafter, DC-to-DC conversion is conducted down to what is now a multitude of voltage requirements based on different component needs. The latest integrated circuits have a number of different voltage requirements with operation going down to 1V and below.
So it is interesting to note that Google engineers, with their interest in power-efficient datacenters and servers, have investigated multiple strategies for increasing efficiency, including power regulator architectures and higher voltage distribution. The primary goal has been to reduce the number of power conversion stages, each of which introduces losses. To help achieve that goal, Google has even experimented with operating standard processors at higher than standard voltages.
Of course, it may take a company of the size and significance of a Google to start the electronics industry rethinking the voltages at which various components are operated and to take a holistic end-to-end view of datacenter power efficiency.
At the upcoming DesignCon at the Santa Clara Convention Center on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2014, at 9:20 a.m., Google engineers will make a presentation on their efforts in this regard. The abstract, "Board power distribution techniques utilizing higher-than-traditional voltages to exceed best-in-class efficiency," promises measured results for different techniques to improve power efficiency, as well as a discussion of the impact of such techniques on safety.