Energy-Efficient Microchip

Posted on February 5, 2008  Comments (0)

Team develops energy-efficient microchip

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”

Related: Nanotechnology Breakthroughs for Computer ChipsMore Microchip BreakthroughsDelaying the Flow of Light on a Silicon Chip

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