Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Activating Dark Silicon Through Computational Sprinting

Technology #5078

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Thomas F. Wenisch
Managed By
Joohee Kim
Licensing Specialist, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-764-8202
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending


Computer and personal electronic processors are currently designed to work continuously at a safe operating power to protect components from overheating. Although this design paradigm suits the continuous processing demands of batch computation systems, it is not ideal for responsive systems. Digital cameras, mobile phones, barcode readers and tablets require short intervals of processing followed by comparatively long idle periods. The processing speed of these short tasks is limited by the constraints imposed by the safe working power, which for passively cooled devices significantly affects response time. For “bursty” systems of this nature a design platform based on response rather than continuous computation is more appropriate.


University of Michigan researchers have proposed and simulated a new processing paradigm to decrease the response times of “bursty” devices. Through optimized thermal capacitance and parallel computing, a ten second process has been shortened to one second while maintaining a safe processor temperature. This computational “sprinting” shows an order of magnitude increase in computational power for hundreds of milliseconds without sacrificing reliability; under sustained processing conditions the system continues to be limited by the conventional operating power not limiting the system to only small tasks. Ideal for electronics with intermittent processing needs and convectively cooled mobile devices, this presents a compelling shift of emphasis from continuous processing based to response-based processor design.

Applications and Advantages

  • Mobile electronics including digital cameras, tablets, mobile phones
  • Systems with intermittent processor demands Advantages
  • Decrease response times by an order of magnitude