Chip startup SuVolta touts low power transistor breakthroughBy Jose Vilches
When it comes to portable devices and mobile computing, power consumption is a critical factor that can make or break a product. There has been some notable progress towards all-day battery life in recent times as manufacturers shrink semiconductor circuitry, and now a start-up by the name of SuVolta is also taking on the challenge of energy-efficient chips with transistor and circuit designs that promise to reduce power consumption by 50%.
There are not many details about the technology itself but apparently it involves a new type of transistors that minimize the voltage variations needed to switch them on or off, reducing current leakage by around 50%. This in turn drastically reduces the amount of energy that turns into heat and must be dissipated as microchips crunch data.
Rather than making the chips themselves, SuVolta will be licensing its technology to third parties, and according to the company it will be easily implemented in factories as the technology won't require any major changes to their current chip making process. So far the company has only built a 65nm SRAM device in a Fujitsu fab applying its technology as a proof of concept, but it has seen promising early test results implementing it at 28nm.
Intel recently said it would shift to a new three-dimensional structure in its upcoming chips to boost performance while keeping power consumption down. SuVolta believes it can help other chipmakers achieve similar power savings without such a radical change in manufacturing or multi-million investments in new manufacturing facilities.
A company using SuVolta's technology could theoretically lag a couple of steps behind in its manufacturing technology but still make chips that are roughly as energy efficient as those built on the latest architecture shrink.
Fujitsu is already signed on as their first customer and will ship the first products using SuVolta's technology sometime late next year. Others such as Broadcom and Cypress have also expressed interest in the new venture, which has the backing of several key figures in the tech world, including three former Intel executives that worked on production processes and a handful of Silicon Valley's veteran VCs.