Intel Shows Off Its Enviro-lovin’ Side

Amidst the smaller semiconductors and new personal area networking technology breakthroughs showcased by Intel at its Research Day earlier this week were some silicon tools that could help track greenhouse gases and reduce power consumption inside devices. The chipmaker also showed off some of its low-wattage chips that will consumer less power and therefore lead to longer battery lives in portable electronics.

We’ve covered the low-power chips before, but two notable breakthroughs might be of interest to environmentally minded readers. One is a way to make a cheaper, more portable laser using silicon rather than specialty materials. Using silicon makes it cheaper to manufacture the laser; it also reduces the amount of heat it generates. That means the laser doesn’t need a bulky cooling technology attached to it, hence the added portability. Such a laser could have uses in the medical and telecommunications fields, as well as be used to detect greenhouse gases. Get it small enough and cheap enough, and precisely measuring your carbon footprint becomes possible.

The other breakthrough involves managing power across an entire device by recognizing when certain aspects of a machine such as a CPU, radio or USB port are active or not, and then shutting inactive portions of the machine down. It’s similar to turning off the lights in a room when you leave. Intel calls it Platform Power Management. Already chips are now designed to cycle their speeds up and down depending on the workloads demanded of them, so this isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem. It’s a move already being made in corporate data centers using software from startups such as Cassatt and Verdiem. I suppose if they’re managing power consumption in hundreds of machines, Intel can seek to micromanage inside each one.