Nanoelectronics Single chip to boost battery life and reduce costs
A whole new generation of devices powered by integrated circuits, popularly known as chips, will be more affordable, more flexible and less-power hungry than their present-day equivalents.
For the consumer, the development will specifically lead to a longer battery life on mobile devices, lower prices for a lot of different devices for the home, car and general communications, and the ability to cram more applications onto a single device.
In large part, the advances will be due to the ongoing efforts of European researchers in project NANO-RF, which commenced in January 2006 and comes to an end in December 2008.
The project team has been focusing on CMOS technology to achieve some significant breakthroughs. CMOS, or complementary metal-oxide semiconductor, is today the major class of integrated circuits. CMOS refers both to a particular style of digital circuitry design and the processes used to implement that circuitry on silicon chips.
Smaller and stronger
The advent and development of CMOS technology has been responsible for the considerable improvement in digital technologies over the past few years, and specifically anything to do with computing power and control logic.
Processors have steadily become both smaller and more powerful as new more efficient materials and designs are developed for their manufacture. But these advances have had no effect on the special analogue chips used for radio communications connections in devices, such as mobile phones and portable computers, which have their own separate circuits.
The project NANO-RF team set out to relocate, or port, the radio frequency (RF) functions onto the same chip as the digital CMOS circuitry, thus replacing several chips with a single multi-purpose one.
More efficient chips
This achievement would not only make for a more efficient overall chip, but also improve the RF functions because of the immunity to noise and the lower power consumption of CMOS devices.
Using expertise from the industrial and academic partners involved in the project, the researchers went through two learning cycles, during which circuits for a single-chip solution were modelled, produced and tested.
They did the testing at different frequencies on the radio spectrum and for different applications. These included voice and data communication on 3G and 4G mobile networks, in-house wireless connectivity via ultra wideband (UWB), and in-vehicle applications such as avoidance signals.
What they all have in common is the combination of a radio signal and processing power.
Choice of technologies
In practical terms, the research could result in a single chip on your mobile phone for voice, data and internet connections, as well as processing and storage power. Or the chip could power a device in your home, allowing you to record wirelessly a high-definition television programme, or wirelessly transfer it between recorder, computer and mobile device, thus making the spaghetti junction a thing of the past.
The researchers aim to have developed two prototype chips using different materials and architectures by the time the project ends in December 2008. The prototypes will give chip-makers a choice of guidelines and technologies for single-chip development.
Call for proposal
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Funding SchemeSTREP - Specific Targeted Research Project