SuVolta licenses new chip technology to Fujitsu

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Jun 6, 2011 10:04am EDT

Ultra-thin microchips are seen in-between normal-sized chips during a presentation at the Fraunhofer-Institut for in Berlin July 11, 2007. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Ultra-thin microchips are seen in-between normal-sized chips during a presentation at the Fraunhofer-Institut for in Berlin July 11, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Silicon Valley startup SuVolta said it has licensed new technology to Fujitsu Semiconductor, allowing it to make microchips more energy-efficient so tablets and smartphones stay charged longer.

Backed by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, SuVolta said its technology can halve the amount of power used by chips without affecting their performance.

It said Fujitsu Semiconductor, part of Japan's Fujitsu Ltd, has licensed the new technology, which does not require major changes to manufacturing facilities, and that production of chips used in cellphones is set to begin next year.

SuVolta aims to license its technology to other companies as the industry faces spiraling costs to develop and manufacture better microchips.

Intel and rivals Texas Instruments, Samsung and Qualcomm are in fierce competition to design and build processors with improved performance for smartphones and tablets like Apple's iPad while reducing their toll on battery life.

Kleiner partner Bill Joy, who helped found Sun Microsystems in 1992, said SuVolta's technology drastically reduces the amount of energy that turns into heat and is wasted as microchips crunch data.

"It took a lot of twisting, turning paths, it took us a number of years, but this is the problem. This is the reason your cell phone gets so warm, the reason your laptop gets so warm," he told Reuters.

A company using SuVolta's technology could theoretically lag a couple of steps behind the extremely expensive cutting-edge manufacturing technology used by companies like Intel while still making chips that are roughly as energy efficient.

"You can actually make your chip higher performance at the same battery life or you can extend your battery life," said Dan Hutcheson, an analyst at VLSI Research. "This puts people way ahead of the curve."

Last month, Intel took the wraps off next-generation "3D" technology that crams more transistors onto microchips, betting it will eventually become a significant advantage in tablets and smartphones.

Intel also plans to shrink the circuits on its mobile chips by three sizes within three years -- a faster pace than normal -- to make them much more efficient.

But those advances will be expensive for the world's largest chipmaker, which is doubling its capital spending this year to $10 billion.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Gary Hill and Gunna Dickson)

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