With Microchip Real Estate at a Premium, Drexel Engineers Look For a Wireless Solution
Successfully adding wireless antennas to microchips could change current methods of chip architecture.
August 7, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, August 7, 2012 - “Location, location, location”: That age-old key to successful real estate
investing has also been the driving mantra in microchip architecture. But with space on the tiny silicon chips at a premium,
as demand for faster, smaller technology increases, engineers at Drexel University could be adding “bandwidth” and “frequency”
to the chip design paradigm by adding wireless antennas to the chips.
The engineers recently earned a National Science Foundation grant to develop tiny wireless networks on microchips.
Wireless radio frequency antennas would allow information to be transmitted from one part of the chip to another without
the use of wired interconnections, the “landlines” of the microchip world.
“Much like the human intestine, wired interconnections can be very long despite their ability to be condensed into a small space.
However, the sheer volume of the connections necessary to make a functional chip still takes up a great deal of area,” said
Dr. Baris Taskin,
an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering and a lead researcher on the project.
Taskin’s team is working to design a hybrid network-on-chip that uses both antennas and wired interconnections to optimize
communication speed and allow the chip to be used in new and sophisticated platforms. The new chip will also use reconfigurable
antenna technology developed at Drexel by
Dr. Kapil Dandekar,
who is Taskin’s collaborator in the research.
“A hybrid chip that utilizes both wired and wireless connections provides a more robust platform,” Taskin said.
“Wired interconnections can be used as dedicated communications lines between areas that are constantly transmitting data.
Antennas can eliminate a number of wired interconnections between the less-traveled paths of communication on the chip.”
The use of radio frequencies to transport data holds an additional advantage over other wireless methods used in next-generation
microchips because the radio waves can travel through solids. Optical data transmission, which uses light waves, is also being
developed as an alternative to wired interconnections. This method requires a clear line of sight between transmitters and
receivers, however, which is a significant limiting factor in design and essentially negates its viability in 3D chip development.
A fully functional proof of concept could be finalized in the next five years, according to Taskin.
The biggest challenges to designing the chip are the same as those experienced in developing a telecommunications network:
making decisions about location of antennas, frequency of transmission and the amount of data that can be transmitted.
Successfully demonstrating the concept of wireless on-chip networking could open doors for using the technique in
multi-core processors and to improve 3D chip design.
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