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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture EECS News@WSU 2014

It’s a Small World

Partha Pande in LabProfessors in WSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have received a grant for state-of-the art equipment to build and test some of the world’s smallest and most efficient computer chips.

“We can make chips as small as 28 nanometers, which is uncommon for a university lab,” said Partha Pande, a computer engineering professor. “They are very small and very high speed.”

More than 4 million tiny transistors, of which the chips are comprised, could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.

In August, Pande and his team of researchers received a grant from the Army Research Office to procure equipment that can test chips that use millimeter-wave frequency, an extremely high frequency that can transmit data up to ten times faster than what currently exists.

Until about a decade ago this frequency was seldom used because the necessary electrical components were not available.

Transmitting waves at high frequencies requires small chip infrastructures, like those that Pande and his team will build and test with this new equipment.

Pande and his team are particularly interested in using this technology in network-on-chip technology that allows several embedded cores to exist on a single chip. Since receiving his doctorate from
the University of British Columbia in 2005, Pande has focused his research on this technology, which could greatly improve the energy efficiency of data centers and other enterprises that require high-performance computers.

High-performance computers currently run on multi-core processors, which require data to travel from core to core through wires. It is a slow and energy-draining process. Network-on-chip technology at MM-wave frequencies allows for wireless links between cores, resulting in less energy loss and higher data transfer speed. Putting that kind of technology to use can translate to increased speed and capability of the Internet and smart devices.

A major complication in building these chips is how to design infrastructure that is small enough to transmit the high frequencies. Pande is known for his research in this area, which is called small world architecture. The new equipment provided by this grant will allow him to build and test these architectures, rather than just relying on computer models.