IBM is leading a European Union research effort aimed at cutting device energy consumption by 90%.
It says Project Steeper is also intended to cut standby power – dubbed “vampire energy” - which accounts for 15% of the electricity use in a modern home, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The project is based around a new transistor developed by IBM in its Zurich lab that would prevent energy from being used when devices are left plugged in.
The team is targeting a tenfold improvement in the energy consumption of cellphones and other devices, and to virtually eliminate their power consumption when in standby mode.
A typical US home has about 40 electronic products continuously plugged into the wall, running up a standby power bill of $3 billion (€2.1 billion) in 2005, IBM said.
Power use is growing dramatically, with IT and electronics devices expected to double their energy draw by 2022, and triple it by 2030 - equal to the total home electricity consumption of the US and Japan in 2009.
“Our vision is to share this research to enable manufacturers to build the Holy Grail in electronics, a computer that utilizes negligible energy when it's in sleep mode, which we call the zero-watt PC,” said Adrian Ionescu of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), who is coordinating the project.
The project, expected to take three years to complete, started in June 2010.