Welsh Chip Research on Energy Efficiency Receives Boost

August 21, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

Scientists at Swansea University's Electronics Systems Design Centre (ESDC) have received a £1 million (US $1.8 million) grant to work on SoCs that could reduce energy consumption. The grant comes from the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry's technology transfer program, and the university will work with two of the U.K.'s leading semiconductor companies: Zetex and X-Fab.

The researchers say the grant was made possible by a three year collaborative industrial research project and follow on patent and proof of concept support to develop "smart" microchips that was funded by the Welsh Assembly. This funding enabled the Swansea researchers to make a number of important technology developments that led to several patent awards.

Petar Igic, Director of the Swansea Centre, noted that effective energy management in volume chip applications – in areas such as PC power supplies, motor drives for domestic white goods, mobile telecommunications, automotive and aerospace – could deliver step change reductions in energy wastage. "The technology has the capacity to make a significant impact both on next generation industrial competitiveness and on sustainability issues in the field of engineering." said Dr Igic. "The commercial potential is massive. For example, the production of a single chip motor drive with efficient speed control used in white goods such as washing machines, would on its own save 20% of current energy usage per house." he added.

In the recent Semiconductor Roadmap for Power Management in the New Millenium, a paper by Alex Lidow, CEO of International Rectifier, it was suggested that effective power management through smart chip techniques could bring $400 billion in annual savings in electrical energy.