If you love to tinker with computers, you've probably noticed that the power supply you need to run your computer is bigger than it was 10 years ago. Leading-edge electronic devices like your computer's main processor consume a lot more power than they once did; unfortunately, a lot of this power is just wasted in the form of heat, providing no increase in performance. Now, a new low-power chip codeveloped by Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation ARM Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMHY) may finally help to combat this problem.

The culprit for ever-bulkier power supplies is "leakage." As the individual transistors in chips have shrunken, the leakage problem has gotten much worse; the thinner and closer together on a chip the individual circuits become, the more likely it is that the electrons racing along those circuits will leak out into neighboring circuits, slowing down the chip's operation and increasing its heat output.

There two main kinds of leakage: Static power consumption results from leakage that occurs when the transistors are either on or off, while dynamic power consumption occurs when the transistors are switching between the two states. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and AMD (NYSE:AMD) have stopped focusing on increasing the clock speeds of their microprocessors, moving instead to dual-core processors, in part because of problems with dynamic power consumption.

It now appears that chip designers are getting a handle on the power-consumption problem, although their solutions are making the chip design process a lot more complex. ARM has developed a chip in collaboration with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE:TSM) that has significantly less leakage, even though the chip is manufactured using a leading-edge 65-nanometer process. The resulting chip consumes even less power than Taiwan Semi's 90-nanometer equivalent.

As far as I can tell, the power reductions were achieved through a delicate balancing act -- the electrical engineer's equivalent of tap-dancing on a high wire. For example, dynamic power consumption is reduced by lowering the voltage level at which a chip operates. But alas, this increases the static power consumption. So part of ARM's innovation is to let the voltage levels vary, along with the speed at which the chip runs, in a way that reduces the overall power use. As a result, the ultimate power savings users will enjoy depends on how intensively they use the chip.

According to Electronic News,Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) is the first company to start sampling chips using the new process. Because of the footprint advantages of 65-nanometer chips, as well as the possible power savings of this new design, I'm sure many other companies will follow.

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ARM Holdings is a Stock Advisor pick, while Intel was singled out by Motley Fool Inside Value . Whatever your investing style, the Fool has a newsletter for you -- and a free 30-day trial to go with it.

Fool contributor Dan Bloom owns shares of Taiwan Semiconductor and Intel. Alas, his computer-tinkering days ended quite a few years ago. The Fool's disclosure policy is 100% leak-free.