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SuVolta emerges with low-power chip technology

Now out of stealth mode, the start-up aims to license its PowerShrink manufacturing technology to semiconductor companies. First to sign up: Fujitsu.

A semiconductor start-up has emerged from stealth mode with designs on making processors more power-efficient.

Silicon Valley-based SuVolta is launching today with its PowerShrink low-power platform. The company claims that PowerShrink helps to reduce chip power consumption by 50 percent or more without causing any deterioration in a device's performance.

To achieve such power efficiency, SuVolta addresses "electrical variation of the millions of transistors on a chip." As processors become smaller, transistors require different voltage levels to operate. Those different levels cause power leakage, lending to reduced power efficiency. With SuVolta's technology in place, chipmakers can regulate the voltage levels to reduce leakage. According to SuVolta, its technology reduces leakage by "five times or more."

Notably, SuVolta's platform can be implemented with existing, standard CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) processor technology and chipmaking gear.

"This last point is key," Scott Thompson, CTO at SuVolta, said in a statement. "When you move away from planar, bulk CMOS, you're asking the semiconductor industry to bear a huge cost burden, literally billions of dollars, associated with developing new manufacturing facilities and circuit designs. SuVolta's technology works within existing designs and IP flows, and with existing equipment."

Though SuVolta has built its company around power efficiency, it isn't the only firm that acknowledges the importance of reducing energy consumption in high-tech products.

Last month, chip titan Intel announced a new 3D transistor structure, called Tri-Gate, for use in 22-nanometer-based chips. According to the company, which has been championing power efficiency for some time now, Tri-Gate will help chips realize a 37 percent improvement in power consumption over 32-nanometer processors.

Now that it's out of stealth mode, SuVolta expects to see PowerShrink in production next year, though rather than develop processors on its own, it says that it will license the technology to semiconductor companies. Fujitsu announced today that it has licensed the technology from SuVolta, making it the first to publicly confirm support for the offering.

SuVolta was founded in 2006. In May 2010, the company secured $22 million in a round of funding led by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.