The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland, is working on making gadgets 10 times more efficient when in use, and almost eliminating energy consumption when idle. The project is called Steeper, after the novel transistors it is focusing on, which get their name because of the abrupt change they exhibit when switching between on and off states.

This inefficiency contributes to the growing amount of energy lost when gadgets and household appliances are put into standby mode. The plan is to use nanotechnology to "close" up the leaky transistors. Research on the new transistors is still under way, with a prototype expected to be ready sometime in 2015. If the research teams succeed in their aim of making such devices, they would use far less power than existing transistor designs which typically leak energy even when supposedly turned off.

Like a leaky faucet, today's transistors are never fully closed even when they're off. "It's old technology," Professor Adrian Ionescu from the school's Nanolab told The New York Times. "What we want to use is nanoscience and nanowires, so when you want to close it, you do close it. Our vision is to share this research to enable manufacturers to build the Holy Grail in electronics, a computer that utilizes negligible energy when it's in sleep mode, which we call the zero-watt PC."