IIT-Mandi and IIT-Jodhpur researchers claim to have made a breakthrough in extending the life and efficiency of electronic devices like cellphones and laptops. The meaning of the breakthrough is explained.
What is the game-changer?
Despite the evolution in the existence of microchips, the researchers claim that electronic circuits in modern gadgets are still constructed using concepts developed decades ago. The various components of microchips must be engineered optimally to reduce losses caused by fluctuating or erratic power supplies in order to improve the performance and longevity of a gadget.
The researchers have proposed a mathematical method that can precisely analyse these losses and aid in the creation of better designs.
What causes a device’s power supply to degrade?
VLSI technology, which allows lakhs of transistors to be embedded on a single silicon microchip, is used in today’s cell phones and computers (eg microprocessors and memory chips). A single chip can also contain both digital and analogue components.
A direct current supply, often from an in-built battery, is used to power such microchips. Although the battery in such a phone can have a low voltage (typically 3.7 volts), parts of the microchip work at even lower voltages.
A transistor can be as small as 7 nanometres in size (a strand of human DNA is 2.5 nanometres wide) and operate with very low voltage. Also minor power spikes and fluctuations can significantly degrade the microchip’s output over time in this situation. Power supply noise, or fluctuations in power supply, are caused by a variety of factors and are considered inevitable in electronic systems.
What makes the analysis interesting in some other way?
Vacuum tubes were used as the basic components of memory and processing in the first generation computers, which were developed in the 1940s and 1950s. They became bulky and costly as a result of this. The vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors in the early 1960s, a breakthrough technology that made computers smaller, cheaper, and more energy-efficient.
Transistors were eventually replaced by integrated circuits, or microchips, which had several transistors on a single chip, a few years later. Finally, in the 1970s, VLSI technology was introduced, allowing thousands of transistors and other elements to be packed onto a single silicon chip.
Since then, computing devices have become increasingly faster as transistors have shrunk in size and more of them can be packed onto a single chip. The ‘Moore’s Law,’ named after Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, who discovered in 1965 that the density of transistors on microchips doubles every two years, has been coined to describe this pattern.
However, this progress seems to have reached a limit, as transistors have already been shrunk to a few nanometres in diameter, and further reductions are becoming difficult to justify. In such a situation, the electronics industry is starting to turn its emphasis away from rising chip speed and toward increasing chip performance and lowering power consumption.
What journal did the study appear in?
The research, titled “An inspection-based approach for analysing deterministic noise in N-port circuits,” was recently published in the IEEE Open Journal of Circuits and Systems. It was written by IIT-Hitesh Mandi’s Shrimali and Vijender Kumar Sharma, as well as IIT-Jai Jodhpur’s Narayan Tripathi. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology sponsored the report (MeitY).