As the worlds demand for electronics keeps growing, so does the impact on climate change. The carbon footprint of those billions of devices we use, including smartphones, already accounts for about 3.7% of all global greenhouse emissions and at the present rate of use, could reach 14% by 2040.

Therefore, we need to limit the increase of the power that is consumed by future electronics, said Georgia Institute of Technology researcherAsif Islam Khan, who is working with an international team of collaborators to do exactly that. They address the challenge in anew study published March 9 in the journalNature Communications.

Our goal with this research was to find ways to reduce the power consumption of future electronics, said Khan, assistant professor in theSchool of Electrical and Computer Engineeringwith a courtesy appointment in theSchool of Materials Science and Engineering.

But it has become more and more difficult to reduce the power consumption of electronic circuits further, because they need a certain voltage level to operate, explained the papers lead author, Michael Hoffmann, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. Reducing this operating voltage would make electronics much more energy efficient.

The 24-person research team included investigators from Europe, South America, and across the U.S. One promising solution they suggest is so-called negative capacitance. Capacitance is a measure of how much electric charge will flow into a device when a voltage is applied. Basically, positive capacitance means an increase of voltage will increase the amount of charge.