Microchip Companies: Lowering Chip Power Usage
Microchip companies are becoming more concerned over the carbon footprint of their products now that the market has improved after the recession and are seeking ways to lower chip power usage- not only for environmental reasons but consumer ones as well.
The market for microchips used for power management applications has benefitted from seven quarters of growth before declining sharply during the final quarter of 2011 but is on the rebound during the second half of this year, according to this week’s report by IHS iSuppli Research (Scottsdale, Arizona). Revenue for power management semiconductors will reach $8.0 billion in Q2, up 6.7 percent. The rise in power management chips is mainly due to growth in consumer and industrial sectors. Furthermore, total power management semiconductor revenue for 2012 is expected to hit $32.8 billion, which is a modest increase of 2.8 percent from $31.9 billion in 2011. However, this level is still below levels in 2009 before the economic slowdown fully impacted this market.
Power management microchips are used in a plethora of products including: cellphones, computers, energy systems, iPods and numerous related devices. Increased demand for power-sensitive portable electronics such as tablet PCs and smartphones will increase sales of power management semiconductors, which improve heat dissipation, weight and size of these types of products, especially laptops.
Strong growth in consumer demand experienced over the past couple months, which is expected to continue, and increased demand for industrial electronics and alternative energy control electronics used in wind, solar, geothermal power and energy-efficient LED lighting applications will benefit power management device makers such as Texas Instruments, Maxim, and Qualcomm.
iSuppli projections for the next 5 years show overall positive growth for power management semiconductors, with revenue increasing by 6.6 percent. Media tablet computers like Apple’s iPad are primarily driving this trend, but other contributors include: digital set-top boxes, building and home control, enterprise voice networks, mobile handsets, mobile infrastructures, and network switches.
In general, the emergence of smartphones and tablets has truly lifted the overall microelectronics industry due to the increased complexity and functionality required for these devices. Yet, most all of these products are manufactured overseas so areas such as Phoenix, Arizona, with unemployment rates above the national average, have not been able to fully capitalize on the associated job growth.
Power-hungry microprocessor chips are getting a makeover via changes in architecture and design to shrink their size while also utilizing less energy. Moving forward, the goal is to continue to increase density and reduce cost, while also improving energy efficiency by limiting current leakage and lowering the power supply during operation.
Transistors used for advanced microchips have been successfully scaled down in size at a rapid over the last 30 plus years leading to continuous improvements in performance, power and cost. However, consumers are seeking mobile electronic products with much longer battery life, ie more energy-efficient, while there is a growing need to significantly reduce the energy cost of operating large data centers for these products. As a result, companies such as Intel, TSMC and IBM have been finding ways to reduce transistor leakage current and operating voltage. In order to meet this requirement, the leading companies in the field are evaluating new materials and processes, as well as enhancements in circuit design and architecture.
Fortunately, the return on the investment for advanced microchip companies is tremendous based on outstanding market predictions and the continued global craze over mobile electronic devices.
Brian Coppa, Ph.D., has authored many pending U.S. patents,international peer-reviewed journal articles, and industry analysespublications concerning electronic materials and devices and greentechnology, which have received numerous prestigious citations andgarnered numerous invited presentations across the U.S. He is a leadingsenior consultant for GLG Inc. regarding alternative energy andmicroelectronic applications.
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