Engineering professor awarded Canada Research Chair to study ways to reduce cloud computing energy consumption

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 7:41:00 PM

Joyce Poon 

Professor Joyce Poon of the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering explores ways to reduce the energy consumed by computing devices, in particular cloud computing which uses remote servers to maintain data and applications. She is one of four University of Toronto researchers awarded a prestigious Canada Research Chair on March 13, 2012. 

"The way we compute is transitioning to what we call cloud computing," said Dr. Poon. "Data is no longer stored on your computer or your phone." Think of your gmail account-you can access it anywhere there's an Internet connection because the actual content is stored in remote servers and downloaded as needed.

"One of the challenges of cloud computing is the enormous power consumption required to run the data centres where everything is stored. Their current global power consumption is 220 billion kilowatt hours a year. In the U.S. alone the cost of this energy is about $10 billion a year, and it's growing at an exponential rate."

Traditionally, metal wires are used to create connections within data centres, as well as within individual computers and on chips inside computers. As the Canada Research Chair in Integrated Photonic Devices, Dr. Poon is exploring how these connections might be made with light instead, which would be much more energy efficient.

"We already use fibre optics to communicate over long distances," she said. "The challenge is to develop devices that are ultra-compact, high-speed and consume very little energy."

Dr. Poon will lead a team developing these devices, many of which are hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The Canada Research Chairs program, administered by the federal government, invests $300 million annually as part of a strategy to attract and retain the most promising researchers. To date, the program has invested more than $315 million in U of T researchers.

This is an edited excerpt of an article from

More information on Dr. Poon's research: