NXP reworks power-saving green ICs

LONDON — The semiconductor industry can play a key role in improving power efficiencies, in reducing global energy consumption and in environmental sustainability. This can be done through the way it manufactures devices, how it disposes of end-of life equipment and, most importantly, how it designs components and equipment.

That much was clear at a recent event hosted by NXP BV (Eindhoven, the Netherlands) to commemorate the shipping of the company’s 400 millionth so called GreenChip, a power management IC that targets power supplies used in PCs and consumer electronics gear.

As Rene Penning de Vries, senior vice president and chief technology officer at NXP noted, “We have developed and are producing the third generation of these devices, and over the past decade, have made a dramatic contribution towards environmental sustainability.”

He said the first parts were shipped in 1997, designed to offer improved standby power for CRT TVs and monitors, with a second generation, from 2001, focused on increasing the user time and power efficiency of, for example notebooks and PCs, set top boxes and LCD TVs.

“The third generation of GreenChip products is bringing even better performance on standby power efficiency, with special emphasis on desktops, notebook adapters and LCD TVs, and we are designing the fourth-generation range,” said Penning de Vries. He stressed that if the third-generation parts were installed in all PCs around the world, three standard, one-gigawatt power stations could be decommissioned.

These parts, he notes, are the only ones for PC power supplies certified by EPRI for the 85PLUS standard, which targets increasing the overall power efficiency of a power supply up to 90 percent, and thus potentially reducing energy losses for a desktop PC supply by up to 50 percent.

A barrage of statistics about energy production and the impact of global warming indicated “just how crucial all this work is, and what impact it could have, especially as semiconductors are becoming ever more pervasive,” stressed Penning de Vries.

For instance, of the annual 124,000 terawatthours of global energy consumption, electricity accounts for 14 percent, with 4 percent of that used in homes, of which 0.6 percent, or 700 terawatthours is attributed to powering consumer electronics devices.

An interesting breakdown by NXP suggests just under 40 percent of that is taken up by TVs, about 20 percent to power PCs and monitors, with set top boxes coming in at 15 percent of the total, with a subset of audio, VCR and DVD representing a near 10 percent share.

NXP demonstrated how its chips enable energy savings in applications such as LCD TV 2D color-dimming backlighting; smart lighting and solid-state lighting; telematics and tire pressure monitoring, as well as energy metering.

“Of the three areas where the IC industry can make a difference, it is in the actual use and application of our silicon where we can make the biggest impact,” stressed Penning de Vries.

Having said that, he added NXP believes the power needed to produce one square centimeter of fully implemented integrated circuit has, over the past six years, been reduced by 60 percent, through increased wafer dimensions, innovative chip fabrication techniques and extra investments in fab infrastructure.

Two application areas highlighted by NXP were the impact its devices are, or could be, making in solid-state lighting and LCD backlighting using its 2-D horizontal and vertical dimming technology.

The latter offers, on average, a 50 to 60 percent reduction in energy usage compared with a conventional TV, at comparable perceived brightness, according to Jacques Le Berre, marketing and business development director at the chip group.

He said NXP expects 10 to 15 percent of 42-inch LCD TVs and above to use such backlight dimming techniques in the not too distant future, because of the combination of power efficiencies possible, picture quality improvements, cost and the possibility of offering thinner LCD sets. “The pay back for us is that we are one of the few chip groups that have a full system offering in this area, including the energy-saving components, the media processor, and the algorithms needed for 2D backlight driving using on-chip hardware pixel based accelerators,” said Le Berre.

  • This story appeared in the EE Times Europe print edition covering July 7 – August 24, 2008. European residents who wish to receive regular copies of EE Times Europe, subscribe here.

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