Is it possible to operate a computing device with zero energy expenditure? This question, once considered just an academic dilemma, has recently become strategic for the future of information and communication technology.
In fact, in the last forty years the semiconductor industry has been driven by its ability to scale down the size of the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor-field-effect transistor, the building block of present computing devices, and to increase computing capability density up to a point where the power dissipated in heat during computation has become a serious limitation. To overcome such a limitation, since 2004 the Nanoelectronics Research Initiative has launched a grand challenge to address the fundamental limits of the physics of switches. In Europe, the European Commission has recently funded a set of projects with the aim of minimizing the energy consumption of computing. In this article we briefly review state-of-the-art zero-power computing, with special attention paid to the aspects of energy dissipation at the micro- and nanoscales.
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