Chandrakasan lab unveils newly designed energy efficient microchip

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February 5, 2008

Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithly Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories, MTL, and his team including researchers at Texas Instruments, has announced the design of a new microchip that operating at up to 10 times more energy-efficiency than present technologies, will be useable for portable electronic devices. The design could be used for cell phones, implantable medical devices and sensors that will last far longer when running from a battery.

EECS graduate student Joyce Kwong will present the new design on Feb. 5 at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. Along with Prof. Chandrakasan, Kwong has worked in the MTL laboratories on this project with EECS graduate students Yogesh Ramadass and Naveen Verma and Texas Instrument collaborators Markus Koesler, Korbinian Huber and Hans Moorman.

One of the design hurtles toward greater energy efficiency was to make the circuits on the chip operable at much lower voltage levels. As Chandrakasan explained to the MIT News Office, the new design works at just 0.3 volt, shaving off 0.7 volts from the typical voltage for most current chips.

This step was complicated by the fact that other components of current microchips needed to be optimized at the lower power supply levels as well, requiring further redesign of the memory and logic circuits as well. This was partially accomplished with a new high-efficiency DC-to-DC converter that the group was able to design and incorporate on the new microchip. The ultimate result is a completely new system-on-a-chip (with redesigned memory and logic).

One of the more astounding possibilities is the application of the new chips for implanted medical devices. Chandrakasan said that the goal for such devices will be to use the body's own heat or movement to provide all the power that is needed.

The research was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Read more about the new microchip.

MIT News Office, Feb. 5, 2008 article

MTL News, February 4, 2008