PORTLAND, Ore. —The European Union estimates that "vampire power" (standby power for electronic devices) already accounts for over 10 percent of the electricity used in homes and offices in Europe and will continue to rise to 49 terrawatt hours by 2014, when over 2 billion computers will be idling in sleep mode burning as much electricity as the combined electricity consumption for Austria, the Czech Republic and Portugal. In addition, the energy consumed by information, communications and consumer electronics will double by 2022 and triple by 2030, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
To drive a stake through the heart of vampire power, the EU is funding its Steep program, which aims to reduce active power by 10-times as well as drive vampire power into extinction. The key to achieving nearly zero standby power is switching from traditional metal-oxide semiconductors (MOS) field effect transistors (FETs) used by CMOS to a new kind of reverse biased transistor called a tunnel FET (T-FET).
Researchers say these nanoscale stakes driven through the heart of "vampire power" will vanquish standby energy consumption, serving as vertical channels for tiny tunnel field-effect transistors.
T-FET base chips can be used in place of any CMOS chips in use today—for everything from cell phones to supercomputers—cutting the power bill for homes and businesses as well as extending the battery life of all mobile electronic devices, according to the Steep consortium.
The EU-funded Steep program will combine the efforts of IBM Research Zurich, Infineon Technologies AG and GlobalFoundries Inc., along with CEA-LETI (Grenoble, France), Forschungszentrum Jülich (Germany) and the University of Bologna, University of Dortmund, University of Udine and the University of Pisa. The project will be supervised by Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
The European Union estimates that "vampire power"--the current drawn by electronic devices in standby mode--consumes as much as 10 percent of your monthly energy bill. Illustration: Victor J. Ochoa.