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IBM Seeks to End ‘Vampire Energy,’ Cut Power Usage

International Business Machines Corp. is researching a way to cut electronic devices’ power consumption by 90 percent and reduce so-called vampire energy, or power used while machines and gadgets are turned off.

IBM’s Zurich laboratory is developing a transistor that would regulate energy usage more tightly than the current models, preventing energy from being used when devices are left plugged into an electrical outlet, the Armonk, New York-based company said today in a statement. It’s working on the project with European universities and companies.

Reducing power consumption in products with transistors, which includes supercomputers, laptops and smartphones, would help companies and home consumers reduce energy bills, said Adrian Ionescu, a professor in the nanotechnology lab at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, who is working with IBM on the project. It also would stretch battery life in mobile devices, he said.

“Instead of having to recharge your battery after two days, you might extend that to weeks,” Ionescu said in a phone interview yesterday. “Imagine your laptop lasting 10 times longer.”

Power from machines in standby mode cost U.S. households a total of $3 billion in 2005, according to the most recent Department of Energy figures, IBM said. Energy used by information technologies and consumer electronics will double by 2022 and triple by 2030 to 1,700 terawatt-hours, the company said.

Mobile Devices

The project will last about three years, followed by several years of development and trials, said Heike Riel, who helps lead nanotechnology research at IBM’s Zurich lab. Consumers would have products with the new transistors in 2015 “at the earliest,” Riel said.

Reducing power needed in mobile devices such as smartphones may allow use of alternative energy sources such as solar, Ionescu said. Mobile devices currently require more power than such energy sources can provide, he said.

IBM, the world’s largest computer-services provider, spends about $6 billion, or about 6 percent of total revenue, on research and development each year.

IBM rose 76 cents to $141.43 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have climbed 8 percent this year.

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