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October 28th, 2010
A Nano-Solution to Energy ‘Vampires’
Vampire power, the electricity consumed by devices that are plugged in but not in use, costs American homeowners some $4 billion every year and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all residential energy use, according to estimates from the Department of Energy.
Like a leaky faucet, today's transistors may be in the "off" position but are never fully closed, allowing small amounts of energy to steadily escape. But with nanotechnology, a far tighter "seal" may be achieved, greatly increasing efficiency, said the project's coordinator, Adrian Ionescu of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
"It's old technology," Mr. Ionescu said of the current transistors, which are based on designs that date back decades. "What we want to use is nanoscience and nanowires, so when you want to close it, you do close it."
For consumer devices, success could mean cellphone batteries that last 10 times longer than today's models, and computers and other devices that use virtually no power when in stand-by mode.
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