Intel developing devices that tap energy from environment

December 7th, 2008 - 4:28 am ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, Dec 7 (Xinhua) Computer chipmaker Intel is developing tiny devices that can tap the energy from the surrounding environment, a US newspaper reported Saturday.The devices include chip-size sensors that monitor air quality while riding piggyback on street-sweepers, and cell phones that recharge themselves with energy “scavenged” from the environment, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The company has tested a version of this technology in San Francisco, putting the sensors in small boxes attached to street- sweeping machines, the report said.

A transmitter connected to the sensor relays the data to whoever needs it. Distributed around the globe, these devices could give scientists up-to-the-minute details of air quality worldwide.

“We could, in fact, litter the planet with these things,” Intel ’s Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner said. “Why can’t we have these sensors on your cell phones?”

The amounts of energy captured at any one time would be very small, so the devices would need to act as “scavengers,” storing up energy until they had enough to perform a specific task, the paper said.

Energy demand in a computer or a data centre is not constant - it increases or decreases depending on what tasks the gear is performing. Intel is trying to develop processors that can follow changes in energy demand microsecond by microsecond (one millionth of a second), minimizing the amount of electricity lost to idling, according to the paper.

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