Analog Researchers Awarded Nearly $700,000
Feb. 18, 2010
Researchers at UT Dallas have received $690,000 to pursue four projects intended to produce higher-efficiency lighting, advanced imaging technology and new generations of sensor technology.
“The focus of all these projects is circuit- and/or system-level techniques that further the state of the art of modern integrated circuits,” said Kenneth K. O, director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence, which awarded the grants.
Each project includes at least one collaborator from Texas Instruments, and each effort focuses on making use of analog technology.
One of two sensor projects, for example, aims to reduce power consumption (and thus increase battery life) by fully activating an inertial sensor only when an ultra-low-power analog module detects a “pattern of interest.” Such a pattern might be walking, for instance, in a sensor designed to help prevent falls among the elderly.
“For certain patterns of interest, we expect to reduce the overall power consumption of the system by several orders of magnitude,” said Dr. Roozbeh Jafari, an assistant professor of electrical engineering.
The other sensor project involves chemical and bio sensors. Such sensors today use traditional semiconductor technology rather than the latest nanoscale silicon-on-insulator or silicon nanowire construction.
At the smaller scale of devices based on the new technologies, though, new simulation modeling and underlying analog circuitry is needed. That’s what Eric Vogel, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, and his team will address.
The imaging technology project, meantime, aims to integrate all of the necessary electronic components of a millimeter-wave imaging system onto a single computer chip. It’s under the direction of Murat Torlak, an associate professor of electrical engineering.
An emerging technology, millimeter-wave imaging offers many potential applications in everything from scanning people for weapons to enabling aircraft to operate more safely in dense fog and other poor weather conditions.
The fourth project is intended to speed the introduction of solid-state lighting using light-emitting diodes (LEDs), helping replace conventional incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lighting.
Recent studies indicate that if solid-state lighting completely displaced current white-lighting technologies, the electricity used for lighting would be cut by 70 percent and the total electrical energy consumption in the United States would decrease by more than 14 percent, eliminating about 115 megatons of carbon-equivalent emissions per year, according to researchers Hoi Lee and Dian Zhou.
The secret to unleashing such lighting’s potential lies in developing a low-cost, highly integrated, power-efficient LED driver system on a chip, and the researchers plan to do so by introducing “radically new design concepts,” producing a prototype chip by the end of the three-year project.
TxACE seeks to transform analog circuit research from a piecemeal process driven mostly by circuit innovation into a holistic and collaborative process that creates innovative integrated circuits and systems driven by both great societal needs as well as by analog industry needs. Specifically, TxACE is focused on improving energy efficiency, healthcare, and public safety and security, and in its first year it has awarded more than $5 million in research funding.