Tuesday November 19, 2019
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First light chip for communications developed

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New York: Engineers, one of them of Indian-origin, have successfully developed a single-chip microprocessor that uses light for communications  – a landmark development that opens the door to ultrafast, low-power data crunching.

The researchers packed two processor cores with more than 70 million transistors and 850 photonic components onto a 3-by-6-millimetre chip.

They fabricated the microprocessor in a foundry that mass-produces vbhigh-performance computer chips, proving that their design can be easily and quickly scaled up for commercial production.

The new chip marks the next step in the evolution of fiber optic communication technology by integrating into a microprocessor the photonic interconnects, or inputs and outputs (I/O), needed to talk to other chips.

“This is a milestone. It’s the first processor that can use light to communicate with the external world,” said Vladimir Stojanovic, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California-Berkeley.

No other processor has the photonic I/O in the chip.

Stojanovic and fellow UC Berkeley professor Krste Asanovic teamed up with Rajeev Ram at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Milos Popovi at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to develop the new microprocessor.

“This is the first time we’ve put a system together at such scale, and have it actually do something useful, like run a programme,” added Asanovic.

The team found the chip had a bandwidth density of 300 gigabits per second per square millimeter, about 10 to 50 times greater than packaged electrical-only microprocessors currently on the market.

The photonic I/O on the chip is also energy-efficient.

The achievement opens the door to a new era of bandwidth-hungry applications.

One near-term application for this technology is to make data centres greener.

According to the US Natural Resources Defense Council, data centres consumed about 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2013 – about two percent of the total electricity consumed in the US.

The paper was published in the journal Nature. (IANS), (image courtesy:kenstonlocal.org)

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This Chip Can Reduce The Need To Replace Batteries In Devices

This new power-saving chip wakes up your device only when it needs to

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New power-saving chip can significantly reduce or eliminate the need to replace batteries in Internet of Things (IoT) devices and wearables. Pixabay

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a new power-saving chip that could significantly reduce or eliminate the need to replace batteries in Internet of Things (IoT) devices and wearables.

The so-called “wake-up receiver” wakes up a device only when it needs to communicate and perform its function. It allows the device to stay dormant the rest of the time and reduce power use.

The technology is useful for applications that do not always need to be transmitting data, like IoT devices that let consumers instantly order household items they are about to run out of, or wearable health monitors that take readings a handful of times a day.

“The problem now is that these devices do not know exactly when to synchronize with the network, so they periodically wake up to do this even when there’s nothing to communicate. This ends up costing a lot of power,” said Patrick Mercier, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC San Diego.

“By adding a wake-up receiver, we could improve the battery life of small IoT devices from months to years,” he said in a paper published in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.

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The chip is useful for applications that do not always need to be transmitting data. Pixabay

The wake-up receiver is an ultra-low power chip that continuously looks out for a specific radio signal, called a wake-up signature, that tells it when to wake up the main device.

It needs a small amount of power to stay on and do this — 22.3 nanowatts in this case, about half a millionth the power it takes to run an LED night light.

This wake-up receiver can also do something else that other nanowatt-powered receivers cannot: perform well over a wide temperature range.

There is a small tradeoff in latency.

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There is a 540-millisecond delay between when the receiver detects the wake-up signature and when it wakes up the device.

But for the intended applications, researchers note that this amount of delay is not a problem. (IANS)