Researchers at MIT and Texas Instruments have unveiled a new chip design for portable electronics that can be up to 10 times more energy-efficient than present technology. The design could lead to cell phones, implantable medical devices and sensors that last far longer when running from a battery.
The innovative design will be presented Feb. 5 at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco by Joyce Kwong, a graduate student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).
Kwong carried out the project with MIT colleagues Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering, and EECS graduate students Yogesh Ramadass and Naveen Verma. Their Texas Instruments (TI) collaborators are Markus Koesler, Korbinian Huber and Hans Moormann. The team demonstrated the ultra-low-power design techniques on TI's MSP430, a widely used microcontroller. The work was conducted at the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories, which Chandrakasan directs.
The key to the improvement in energy efficiency was to find ways of making the circuits on the chip work at a voltage level much lower than usual, Chandrakasan explains. While most current chips operate at around one volt, the new design works at just 0.3 volts.
Reducing the operating voltage, however, is not as simple as it might sound, because existing microchips have been optimized for many years to operate at the higher standard-voltage level. "Memory and logic circuits have to be redesigned to operate at very low power supply voltages," Chandrakasan says.
One key to the new design, he says, was to build a high-efficiency DC-to-DC converter-which reduces the voltage to the lower level-right on the same chip, reducing the number of separate components. The redesigned memory and logic, along with the DC-to-DC converter, are all integrated to realize a complete system-on-a-chip solution.
One of the biggest problems the team had to overcome was the variability that occurs in typical chip manufacturing. At lower voltage levels, variations and imperfections in the silicon chip become more problematic. "Designing the chip to minimize its vulnerability to such variations is a big part of our strategy," Chandrakasan says.
So far the new chip is a proof of concept. Commercial applications could become available "in five years, maybe even sooner, in a number of exciting areas," Chandrakasan says. For example, portable and implantable medical devices, portable communications devices and networking devices could be based on such chips, and thus have greatly increased operating times. There may also be a variety of military applications in the production of tiny, self-contained sensor networks that could be dispersed in a battlefield.
In some applications, such as implantable medical devices, the goal is to make the power requirements so low that they could be powered by "ambient energy," Chandrakasan says-using the body's own heat or movement to provide all the needed power. In addition, the technology could be suitable for body area networks or wirelessly enabled body sensor networks.
"Together, TI and MIT have pioneered many advances that lower power in electronic devices, and we are proud to be part of this revolutionary, world-class university research," said Dr. Dennis Buss, chief scientist at Texas Instruments. "These design techniques show great potential for TI future low-power integrated circuit products and applications including wireless terminals, battery-operated instrumentation, sensor networks and medical electronics."
The research was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
David Chandler | MIT News Office
Silicon solar cell of ISFH yields 25% efficiency with passivating POLO contacts
08.12.2016 | Institut für Solarenergieforschung GmbH
Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer IFAM
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy