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Reducing the power consumption of next-generation telecommunication devices

Smart home control app on a tablet icons controlling lighting and other aspects of an internet connected home

A completed EMPIR project has made the first steps to reduce the energy consumption of next-generation telecommunication technologies

In 2020 the roll-out of 5th Generation (5G) telecommunications began across Europe. These systems will provide greater connectivity and, coupled with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) with a potential 50 billion connected and continually operating electronic devices, is likely to utilise a large amount of power with a matching increase in greenhouse gases.

In the Information and Communications Technology sector global greenhouse gas emissions increased by 50% - from 2.5% in 2013 to 3.7% in 2019. Within this increase 20 % of the footprint is attributed to personal mobile networks and mobile devices.

The EMPIR project Metrology for advanced energy-saving technology in next-generation electronics applications (16ENG06, ADVENT) addressed some of the fundamental requirements for more energy efficient devices. This step towards the reduction of energy consumption could be of benefit to decrease greenhouse gas emissions if joined with sobriety in numeric technology use including the limitation of product numbers put on the market.

The many advances the project achieved during its lifetime include:

  • developing the world’s first validated (on-chip) sensor for power monitoring. Based on the latest BICMOS 55 nm technology this operates with zero-power consumption in that it does not draw power from the device to make measurements
  • studying electronic devices such as transistors used in power applications and developed a measurement system to simultaneously make multiple measurements on one device – such as temperature, frequency response and other parameters specific to microwave applications
  • developing the first uncertainty measurements on power loss in transistors and observing losses of around 60-80% of power consumption, with around 1% measurement uncertainty
  • making the first investigations into the effect of the environment on scanning microwave microscopy measurements used for material characterisation at different relative humidity levels (from 1 to 45 %) which resulted in the publication of a good practice guide on this technique
  • Applying mesoscale and analytical in-situ X-ray characterization studies, and complementary nano-measurement techniques on piezoelectric samples under different conditions never achieved before such as application of an electric field (200 kV/cm) using Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM).

Francois Ziadé (LNE) who coordinated this project has said about the work:

“This project was initiated by scientists who believed in the efficiency improvement for balancing impact of new technology on climate changing. All enhancement measurements capabilities, including better understanding of material properties, achieved in this project will have a sense only if we manage sobriety in new technology use in digital domain.”

 The outputs of ADVENT will support industry in developing the traceable measurement techniques and a robust metrology framework for more efficient power management systems and help to make the first steps in reducing the power consumption of our modern communication networks.

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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