This letter was sent to President Obama and Steve Case 2012 and to Dr. Bill (MIT Special Projects) and several marketing managers in Silicon Valley
From: Pfeltner (Physics, Math, Electronics, Hardware/Software Engineer)
Subject: The Energy crisis can finance new Jobs in electronics.
I have some ideas that may interest you. The cost of power has become much more expensive over the last few years and power is notoriously wasted.
Because of the jobless rate, people are sitting on their money. I saw a store display that said this refrigerator uses $35 of electricity per year and suddenly I was buying a new refrigerator. Absolutely nothing in the Universe moves without power and the cost of power affects everything. That should be the number one law of economics. Our dependence on other countries for power allows those countries to adversely control us.
Electronics circuits in telephone, network, and computer rooms are out of date because the operating companies are afraid to spend money and development companies are conserving development dollars. Power efficiency sells cars and refrigerators and it can sell electronics. Power company and telephone company voltage distribution systems were designed when gasoline cost less than a dime and predates the transistor and space travel. These unfortunate voltage choices waste power and creates noise that wreaks havoc with today’s electronics.
I am a physicist in systems engineering in Silicon Valley working on telephone and network systems. The power cost for the telephone company and other companies is staggering because of the poor efficiency of existing electronics, air conditioners and the power distribution systems. For decades the lowest selling price for a product has taken precedence over the long term cost. In telephone and network electronics a few dollars of components and a more efficient electronic design would save hundreds of dollars in electricity over the life of the product. I have many years invested in developing low power circuits and there are other engineers with excellent power saving circuits tucked away, but companies need incentives and the proper direction to use them.
Using a barrel of oil as an example, 50% of the barrel is lost by the power company in power conversion to electricity and power distribution to the telephone office. Another 25% is lost from the customer power meter to the actual electronics by converting the line voltages to usable filtered DC voltages, battery backup and power distribution in the telephone office. The remaining 25% is shared by the air conditioners and the electronics. The air conditioners typically use 5 times more power than the electronics so 25% divided by 6 leaves about 4.2% of the barrel to power the electronics. This is pathetic by any measure. Reducing the power consumption of electronics carries a bonus of deleting some of the air conditioners. Investing in the more efficient LED lighting reduces power for lighting by more than 90%, removes the mercury and much of the heat.
We buy oil from foreign countries; mine the ground for coal, natural gas and oil, we erect countless wind mills and build huge hydro electric dams for power. It is more economical to mine our electrical systems to recover the wasted power and save the resources for another day. We kill birds, grind up fish and make a horrible mess of the land and the ocean, when better electrical designs can reduce power consumption. The huge hydro electric dams have become a maintenance nightmare. One mistake at a dam and cities are washed away and power is out for hundreds of miles for a very long time. The public is simply scared to death of nuclear. No matter what we do environmentalist will picket, petition and publicly complain that we are destroying something. We have far more power than we are using but most of it is wasted. Reworking electrical systems to regain wasted power is transparent to the public and there is nothing to picket.
Designs for battery operated devices like laptops and cell phones use very low power circuits for reasonable battery life and heat reduction. This type of technology could be used in many other circuits. A national bounty for ultra low power electronics designs would give development companies the incentive and new direction they need. The power company distribution voltages create noise problems along with huge power losses. Power company and telephone company voltages could be reduced to voltages more agreeable with today’s electronics. Think of the lives lost each year to high voltage electrical shock and electrical fires. Think of the power that can be recovered and the copper and aluminum that could be saved to replace the tons of precious metals lost in recent wars.
There are dozens of ways to reduce power in electronic circuits. Make use of the ultra fast power on/off times of solid state circuits by keeping them off or in low power hibernation until they are needed. Design integrated circuits to reliably work at a lower standard voltage range. The higher voltages are more prone to noise, voltage overshoot and spiking. Design circuits to work on lower voltage rails and make the circuits work closer to the voltage rails. Minimize voltage and current since a detectable high/low voltage deflection is all that is needed for most digital circuits and buffers can be used when more voltage and current is needed. The list of possibilities goes on and on.
Turning the energy crisis around could put the country back to work. A national bounty on ultra low power electronics with tax breaks and loans is a real incentive. Requiring the engineering and production to remain in the USA and phase out tax breaks that send jobs overseas.
Thanks for taking the time to read this letter.