We love all the glorious things that our wonderful smartphones can do, but this functionality comes at the price of diminished battery life. Interestingly, a possible solution to this conundrum could be something called dark silicon, a technology that could effectively increase battery life up to eleven times.
No, this has nothing to do with some mad scientist in an epic sci-fi action movie out of Hollywood. It has nothing to do with Dr. Evil and his “laser.” Instead, dark silicon refers to the “underused transistors found in modern microprocessors.” A prototype chip has been built by the University of California San Diego and it seems to harness this “dark silicon” to improve energy efficiency up to 11 times compared to standard processors.
The so-called GreenDroid prototype does this through “specialized processors” that make use of the dark silicon, running “hot code” (heavily used pieces of code) under the Google Android platform. When running code outside of this “conservation core,” the prototype is still 7.5 times more efficient than a standard chip.
“Smartphones are a perfect match for our approach, since users spend most of their time running a core set of applications, and they demand long battery life,” said computer science professors Michael Taylor and Steven Swanson. “As mobile applications become more sophisticated, it’s going to be harder and harder to meet that challenge. Conservation cores offer a solution that exploits a resource that will soon be quite plentiful – dark silicon.”