There's certainly no shortage of companies working to make electronics of all sorts more energy efficient, but NEC and Rohm Co now say that they're on the verge of a breakthrough that could change things in a big way, and we could possibly see it in "practical use" by the end of this year. As Tech-On! reports, both companies are hard at work on integrated circuits that consume no power at all when they're in standby mode, and turn themselves on only when power is needed. That's apparently possible by making the entire chip nonvolatile, as opposed to many current chips that only use nonvolatile merged memory. According to NEC, that'll let them "cut dissipation for digital consumer electronics in the standby mode to just a few percent of what it is now," and at no expense of convenience. While NEC isn't making any promises for the near future just yet, Rohm says that it'll begin shipping its first custom ICs in the second half of this year, and that the first products using them could start showing up by the end of 2009.