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The Semiconductor Industry and Green Power

Echoing the general theme of the day at the Semico 2010 Outlook conference; namely the growing importance of controlling, manipulating, generating, conserving and transmitting power, eSilicon CEO Jack Harding addressed the issue in his keynote speech, summarized as follows. 

Developing counties such as India and China have ever-increasing appetites for the kind of inexpensive, plentiful and reliable sources of energy already available in the developed world. More energy resources are needed in developing countries to provide clean water, electric lighting, heating and cooling and other aspects of a comfortable life the developed world takes for granted. Increased energy resources are also required to provide the computing power and all-pervasive connectivity becoming available to billions of people around the world.

Although the growing markets for electronic products benefit many companies, the environmental impact of generating the power required by those devices is beginning to be a concern. Many are beginning to question whether or not sales of ever larger numbers of electronic devices, requiring ever larger amounts of power, is necessarily a good thing. Those questions are leading to demands for “Green” processes and initiatives.

The semiconductor industry has always been concerned and driven by issues relating to power consumption. Until recently, new power-saving devices or technologies have not been introduced solely to decrease the amount of power required from energy sources or deal with regulatory issues. But, decreased power has been a part of semiconductor industry thinking from the industries early stages. Every time a semiconductor engineer has proposed a way of doing more while using less power, the cause of “Green” energy has been advanced.

Semiconductors have decreased the amount of power generation required. Clean water can be acquired, transported, purified, conserved and reused using far less power than would be required if semiconductors were not being used at every stage of the process. That is also true for agriculture, exploration for natural resources and the transportation, processing, manufacturing and distribution of goods. . The efficiency of all of these endeavors has been enhanced by the application of semiconductors and the processing power and control they offer.

Some large challenges remain, but the semiconductor industry employs some of the smartest, most innovative people on the planet. The task before us is plain – to find ways to continue advancing semiconductor performance while reducing the power consumed. If the industry can do this, solutions will be found to help reduce the amount of energy required by developed and developing nations and reduce environmental concerns – a worthy goal.

Rick Wawrzyniak
Senior Analyst ASIC/SOC
semico Research Corp.

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