`Pruned` microchips faster, smaller, greener

Efficiency of computer chips can be increased by trimming away portions that are rarely used.

Washington: A scientific breakthrough has opened the way to doubling the efficiency of computer chips simply by trimming away the portions that are rarely used.
"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, professor of computing at Rice University in the US.

"What we`ve shown is that we can boost performance and cut energy use simultaneously if we prune the unnecessary portions of... integrated circuits that are typically used in hearing aids, cameras and other multimedia devices."

Pruning is the latest example of "inexact hardware", the key approach that Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID), Singapore, is exploring with Switzerland`s Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) to produce the next generation of energy-stingy microchips, according to a Rice statement.

The 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.