Scientists have developed a new technique for doubling the efficiency of computer chips simply by trimming away the portions that are rarely used.
Computing experts from the United States, Switzerland and Singapore collaborated for the study.
"I believe this is the first time someone has taken an integrated circuit and said, 'Let's get rid of the part that we don't need,'" said principal investigator Krishna Palem, the Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of Computing at Rice University in Houston.
"What we've shown is that we can boost performance and cut energy use simultaneously if we prune the unnecessary portions of the digital application-specific integrated circuits that are typically used in hearing aids, cameras and other multimedia devices," he said.
Palem, who heads the Rice-NTU Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID), and his collaborators at Switzerland's Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) are unveiling the new pruning technique this week in Grenoble, France, at DATE11, the premier European conference on the design, automation and testing of microelectronics.
Pruning is the latest example of "inexact hardware," the key approach that ISAID is exploring with CSEM to produce the next generation of energy-stingy microchips.
The probabilistic concept is deceptively simple: Slash power demands on microprocessors by allowing them to make mistakes. By cleverly managing the probability of errors and by limiting which calculations produce errors, the designers have found they can simultaneously cut energy demands and boost performance.
At DATE11, Rice graduate student Avinash Lingamneni will describe "probabilistic pruning," the novel technique the team created for trimming away the least-used portions of integrated circuits. (ANI)