We might be seeing the likes of 7nm coming soon, while the latest and greatest graphics cards are made on the new 14nm and 16nm nodes with some seriously power efficient GPU technology from NVIDIA and its Pascal architecture at 14nm.
Now, we have researchers from UC San Diego developing a new temperature sensor that uses 10 billion times less power than 1W, at just 113 picowatts. Hui Wang is an author on the new study, telling Scientific Reports: "We're building systems that have such low power requirements that they could potentially run for years on just a tiny battery".
The team worked on reducing power in two areas, with the first being the power source, where they used something that other researchers in their field are trying to move away from. This is where transistors come into play, as they have a gate that stops the flow of electrons in a circuit, but transistors also keep getting thinner and thinner, introducing new problems. As transistors get smaller, the gate material becomes thinner, which is where "gate leakage" comes into play.
These leaked electrons are what is powering the new sensors, with Hui explaining: "Many researchers are trying to get rid of leakage current, but we are exploiting it to build an ultra-low power current source". There were also other improvements to the new sensor where power was reduced from the way the sensor converts temperature to a digital read out, with this improvement yielding a huge 628x less power than the best sensors of today.
This new sensor would be perfect for the next generation of wearable devices, as well as environmental and home monitoring systems. In its current form, the sensor can do one temperature read per second. The team is currently working on optimizations on the design, as well as improvements to its accuracy.