Chip Trades Precision for Power Usage

Sometimes, argues one engineer, close really is good enough
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Mar 1, 2008 7:38 PM CST
Microchips, like this wafer of them, are prized for speed and accuracy. A new design trades some accuracy for a reduction in power usage.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Smaller, faster and more precise are the goals of engineers who design microchips, those tiny, power-hungry processors at the core of modern electronics. But a Rice University professor is going against the grain, trading a little bit of precision for a major savings in power, and potentially leading a revolution in how chips are manufactured, reports Technology Review.

Krishna Palem’s "probabilistic complementary metal-oxide semiconductor technology, “ or PCMOS, is ideal, he believes, for devices that rely less on computational accuracy than on brute force to process audio and video files.  To ensure precision, chips have traditionally run at high voltage; PCMOS chips use much less voltage, making them ideal for applications like music players and mobile phones where battery life is critical.