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Researcher looks to write energy saving into computer languages

By Colin Ricketts - 24 Mar 2011 14:55:0 GMT
Researcher looks to write energy saving into computer languages

New technology tends to have a fairly good green image when compared to the smoke belching industries of old, but the vast array of electronic devices we all take for granted all need powering, which is why a Binghamton University scientist is trying to write 'green' computer programmes.

Yu David Liu has just received a five-year from America's National Science Foundation of $448,641, topped up with $50,000 from Google to research energy efficient software.

Previous attempts to limit energy use by computers and other high-tech devices have centred on the hardware and operating systems, but Liu wants to change the way programmers make machines work.

He said: ''Saving energy is an activity that should come from many layers.''

He wants to build energy-saving into computer languages, to allow programmers to make our machines leaner and greener.

''Saving energy is often a trade-off,'' Liu said. ''Sometimes you're willing to run your program slower so your cell phone battery can last longer.''

And, Liu argues, programmers themselves can do this far more efficiently than automated algorithms.

''Programs today are not just 50 lines of code,'' he said.

And, within this increased complexity Liu wants to introduce advanced programming language technologies known as ''type systems''.

These will answer questions about energy consumption of large programmes. By building this in to the language itself, the green benefits can be enjoyed wherever and however the language is used.

''In an era when new platforms are introduced every year,'' Liu explained, ''an approach that's platform-independent would be beneficial because it can be applied more broadly.''

Liu is breaking entirely new ground with this work and hopes that winning the hearts and minds of the computing community will help make the change.

''I think every researcher wants to make the world better, and we just put it into our own perspective,'' he said. ''Sometime in the Computer future, every Science 101 class may include a lecture or two on energy-aware programming. As an educator, I'm excited about helping to ensure that next-generation programmers are green-conscious from the beginning of their careers.''