SOI & the greening of electronics
Posted date : Jul 30, 2009

The SOI Industry Consortium has a major role to play promoting the power-saving benefits of SOI.

The SOI Industry Consortium has now launched the “SOI: Simply Greener” campaign.  Over the next few months, we’ll be reaching out to the industry and the press with this message.  But for our members, “green” is much more than a slogan:  it’s embedded in their core values.

Last year’s joint survey with the GSA, the “SOI technology: Semiconductor perception & awareness study”, indicated that almost half of the design community sees power savings as the single most important advantage of using SOI.

Acting on that information, the Consortium members have been working to ensure that all the pieces are in place – particularly physical IP and libraries – so that designers can leverage SOI in the greening of electronics

Shifting drivers

Increasing performance has been the traditional industry driver.  Now, however, the quest for energy efficiency has come to the forefront.  It’s no longer a question of increasing performance at the expense of ratcheting up the power envelope.

High-performance enterprise processors traditionally used a lot of power – so it was natural enough for this to be one of the first places we saw SOI gain traction.  Faced with burgeoning electricity bills – not just for the systems but also for the infrastructure to keep them cool and running – IT managers were among the first to boost the volumes of energy-saving, SOI-enabled systems.

Now the consumer market is beginning to understand that operating costs are just as important a consideration as the price tag.  Here again, the high-performance gaming systems were the first to adopt SOI-based solutions.  While it might not seem like such a big deal to lower power consumption in video games, when multiplied by the incredible volumes of the consumer market, the power savings quickly add up on a global scale.

With the advent of ubiquitous computing, with more and more chips embedded in more and more products, comes the imperative – both moral and financial – of controlling chip power consumption.

Chip designers know well the high toll exacted by the performance-power trade-off.  70% of the GSA/Consortium survey respondents said that a 30% power savings would motivate them to invest in an evaluation of SOI.

SOI can save that 30% and still enable increased performance. For those looking to make a bigger dent in their power budget, SOI can enable even greater savings in power at a constant performance level. These are powerful, green, motivating figures, particularly when put in the high-volume context of consumer markets.

Green design, green manufacturing

The intertwining of economic and environmental responsibility is really what “green” is all about.
Designers who choose SOI to simplify and win the power reduction challenge should know that their choice is also “green” from a manufacturing standpoint.

Manufacturing chips on SOI decreases the number of overall process steps compared to chips built on bulk silicon. It also enables increased density, which decreases real estate. Yields are also typically higher. Taken together, these savings cut the carbon footprint down every step of the way:  less consumables, less energy, less waste.

In calculating green impact and costs, SOI-enabled chips are a clear winner on the road to sustainability. In aggregating our expertise for the greening of electronics, the SOI Industry Consortium is playing a major part in this world-changing movement.

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