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Forschungszentrum Jülich - Annual Report 2011

22 Forschungszentrum Jülich | Annual Report 2011 I nformation and communications technologies account for more than 10% of the total energy consumed by Germany – and this figure is increas- ing. Electronic devices have become an indispensable part of our everyday lives. Chips in these devices are becom- ing more and more powerful, and their thirst for energy is also increasing. Re- searchers at Jülich are looking for ener- gy-efficient solutions on different levels: from tiny components to computer ar- chitectures and the energy management in supercomputer centres. Scientists from the Peter Grünberg Institute (PGI), for example, are working on the development of memristors – ti- ny electronic components in which high resistance can be switched to low re- sistance and back again using ultrashort pulses of voltage. The two basic ele- ments in all computer languages – namely “zero” and “one” – are then as- signed to these resistance values. When the external voltage is switched off, the memristor retains the last resistance it had, making it interesting as a fast memory, because in contrast to the working memories used today, the data stored on memristors would not be lost as soon as the computer is switched off. The energy required to write to these new memories is less than a thousandth of that required by today’s flash memo- ries, used for example in USB flash drives. Prof. Rainer Waser is convinced that memristors could even compete with transistors in future: “The advan- tage is the combination of working memory and the actual processing unit, which are normally physically separated from each other. Alone the communica- tion between these two components re- quires enormous amounts of energy and computing time.” Waser is a director at PGI and one of the initiators of a new “Green IT” institute within the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA). Scientists at the Jülich Supercomput- ing Centre (JSC) cooperate with compa- nies such as IBM and Intel in their quest to make computers that are a thousand times faster than today’s supercomput- ers a reality by 2020. The ultimate aim is ensuring that these computers do not consume any more energy than today. “This means that we must increase en- ergy efficiency a thousand times over, for example by improving access to working memory and mass storage as well as input and output units,” says Dr. Thomas Fieseler, head of technology at JSC. The supercomputer experts at Jül- ich tested parts of an energy-efficient IBM computer architecture in 2011. The researchers developed software within the Fit4Green project that will be capa- ble of performing different tasks or jobs on a supercomputer in such a way that it will require 6–16 % less energy than normal. For a long time, the only interesting thing about computers was how fast they were. Today, how much energy they consume is just as important. Researchers at Jülich are working on different aspects of the green information technology of the future. Computers and the Energy Factor This innovative data-storage element com- prises 4,096 channels, the electrical re- sistance of which can be rapidly switched back and forth between a high and low re- sistance. Scientists at Jülich use this measurement set-up to characterize the electronic proper- ties of chips that they are developing for use in a novel energy-efficient information technology.