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TI does energy efficiency on a chip

Its line of Piccolo microcontrollers can reduce power consumption significantly of home appliances, hybrid cars, LED lighting, and even solar panels.

The key to energy efficiency in everything from hybrid cars to air conditioners is smarter chips, according to Texas Instruments.

TI on Monday plans to introduce Piccolo, a line of microcontrollers that it says will make more sophisticated power electronics available to a wider array of products, including battery-driven cars, solar panel "microinverters," LED lighting, and home appliances.

The Picollo chip product line designed for energy efficiency. Texas Instruments

Energy efficiency, in general, is considered the most cost-effective way to decrease pollution. And specialized power electronics is one way to conserve energy usage.

Sophisticated microcontrollers could, for example, set an air conditioner or refrigerator fan at a lower speed rather than always full blast. A variable-speed air conditioner could be 30 percent more efficient, says TI.

By contrast, many of the embedded chips that control motors and power supply in appliances are not very nuanced: either the power is on or off. Manufacturers have used these chips because they are the least expensive.

But TI said that it has shrunk the size and cost of its chips, which can be adapted to several different uses. The 32-bit controllers will start at $2 per chip for volume purchases.

Late next year, the chip will be available in more energy-efficient appliances and solar panels with individual microinverters that convert direct current to household electricity, said TI marketing manager Keith Ogboenyiya.