Nvidia’s new Tegra 3 platform will feat a total of five processing cores, though it is often considered a quad-core processor. The reason for this is the fifth core is not active all the time and only receives power when needed to run simple tasks in the background. Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia are proposing the reverse of this design be used, to allow for greater processing power without needing greater battery power.
The idea is to create a phone-CPU with upwards of a dozen cores, but only one is used for normal operation. The others are powered on when 'sprinting' is required. Some activities, such as image processing, require more processing power than a single core can provide, if the task is to complete quickly. By powering up the other cores the operation can be done much faster, and the cores turn off once the task is complete.
This is somewhat like the Turbo Boost and Turbo Core technologies of Intel and AMD, where the extra processing power is only engaged as long as the maximum TDP is not reached. To keep the mobile CPU within this limit, the researchers suggest using a phase change material to keep the temperature under control. A simulation of a 16 core chip showed performance increased by a factor of 10, before it got too hot. Unfortunately we cannot expect these chips to be hitting the market very soon though, because at least a proper phase change material will have to be found first.