Profs. Tsividis and Nowick win a $1 million NSF grant

May 07, 2010

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to Professors Yannis Tsividis of Electrical Engineering (principal investigator) and Steven Nowick of Computer Science (co-principal investigator) to perform research in ultra low-power microelectronic systems which perform continuous monitoring, acquisition and processing of signals occurring in the physical world. Such systems can be used in a wide range of applications, from environmental sensors to implantable or ingestible biomedical devices. This interdisciplinary research
combines the expertise of the two investigators in continuous-time digital signal processors and in asynchronous digital design.

The proposal, entitled "Power-Adaptive, Event-Driven Data Conversion and Signal Processing Using Asynchronous Digital Techniques", addresses the increasing demand for ultra low-power and high-quality microelectronic systems that continuously acquire and process information, as soon as it becomes available.  In these applications, new information is generated
infrequently, at irregular and unpredictable intervals. This event-based nature of the information calls for a drastic re-thinking of how these signals are monitored and processed.

Traditional synchronous (i.e. clocked) digital techniques, which use fixed-rate operation to evaluate data whether or not it has changed, are a poor match for the above applications, and often lead to excessive power consumption. This research aims instead to provide viable "event-based" systems: controlled not by a clock but rather by the arrival of each event.  Asynchronous (i.e. clock-less) digital logic techniques, which are ideally suited for this work, are combined with continuous-time digital signal processing, to make this task possible.
Such continuous-time data acquisition and processing promises significant power and energy reduction, flexible support for a variety of signal processing protocols and encodings, high-quality output signals, and graceful scalability to future microelectronic technologies. A series of silicon chips will be designed and fully evaluated, culminating in a fully programmable, event-driven data acquisition and signal processing system, which can be used as a testbed for a wide variety of real-world applications.