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The past, present, and future energy consumption of ICT from a thermodynamic efficiency perspective

   Faculty of Environment

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  Dr P Brockway, Dr K Djemame, Prof P Taylor  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

An increasing share of electricity is being used for information communication technologies (ICT) devices (e.g. TVs, smartphones, computers, tablets) as computing power continues to expand, and the number and applications of ICT devices increase. In addition, there are considerable energy requirements associated with other ICT aspects, which also continue to grow rapidly, including internet traffic, cloud computing storage systems, and embodied energy to manufacture the ICT devices themselves. At the same time, ICT devices can provide energy savings via e.g. teleworking, and ‘smart’ devices. This project will seek to address three key questions, which together will help us better understand the potential impact of ICT systems on energy and net zero climate targets:

1. What are the historical UK and global electricity demands of these ICT devices and associated upstream (manufacture) and downstream (e.g. cloud storage, internet traffic) systems?

2. What is the energy efficiency of these ICT systems when measured using thermodynamic principles?

3. What share of the UK and global electricity demand might be for ICT systems in 2050?

Funding Notes

This 3.5 years EPSRC DTP award will provide full tuition fees, a stipend at the UK research council rate (UK Sterling 15,840 for 2022/23), and a research training and support grant


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[3] J. Aslan et al,, “Electricity Intensity of Internet Data Transmission: Untangling the Estimates,” J. Ind. Ecol., vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 785–798, 2018.
[4] P. A. Wäger, R. Hischier, and R. Widmer, “The Material Basis of ICT,” in ICT Innovations for Sustainability, Cham, 2015, pp. 209–221.
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[7] A. Kylili et al., “The role of Remote Working in smart cities: lessons learnt from COVID-19 pandemic,” Energy Sources Part Recovery Util. Environ. Eff., 0,0, pp. 1–16, 2020.
[8] E. Hittinger and P. Jaramillo, “Internet of Things: Energy boon or bane?” Science, vol. 364, no. 6438, pp. 326–328, 2019.
[9] R. Landauer, “Irreversibility and Heat Generation in the Computing Process,” IBM J. Res. Dev., vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 183–191, Jul. 1961.

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