SAN JOSE, Calif. – Intel will show progress in research efforts to deliver more power efficient processors and digital RF capabilities at the International Solid State Circuits Conference. It will also give one of the first in-depth public disclosures of a next-generation Ivy Bridge processor.
For its part, the world’s largest semiconductor company will present more than a dozen papers, many of them detailing research work using its new 22 nm tri-gate process technology. Creating more power efficient products is a focus for many of the ISSCC papers from Intel and from ISSCC as a whole.
In a handful of mainly research papers, Intel will describe techniques to deliver five- to ten-fold power efficiency gains by driving circuits to perform at near threshold voltage levels.
“Energy efficiency peaks as you approach threshold voltage,” said Justin Rattner, chief technology officer for Intel in an ISSCC briefing. “Taking systems to very low voltage but not putting them in standby allows meaningful operation,” he said.
Intel demoed at its own IDF Fall event last year its Claremont processor, a research chip running at such low voltages it could actually be powered up by a tiny handheld solar cell. Intel doesn’t aim to build solar-powered CPUs, quipped Rattner, but it does aim to explore how low it can go in getting work out of chips at the lowest power levels.
At ISSCC, Intel will give an in-depth discussion of the Claremont chip (paper 3.6). It will also describe an effort (paper 13.3) using similar techniques for a bank of 22 nm eight-transistor SRAMs used as a CPU cache
Another paper (10.1) will detail a 256-bit wide SIMD graphics block made in a 22 nm process operating at 280 millivolts for a nine-fold efficiency gain. “Due to using a ground up design we got close to order of magnitude improve in energy efficiency, something that’s almost unheard of,” Rattner said.
A related paper (10.3) will discuss a floating point unit that saves 50 percent energy by reducing precision from 24- down to six significant digits without loss of accuracy.
Separately, Intel will present a handful of papers on advances in digital processing in RF, focused mainly on work in 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi.
“We are getting close to having a complete kit of digital RF building blocks for radios,” said Rattner. “The next step in research is to integrate these blocks on SoCs with digital logic circuits,” he said.
In one paper (3.4) Intel will describe Rosepoint, a research chip that embeds a full 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi transceiver using digital RF techniques in a dual-core 32 nm Atom processor. Commercial versions of such chips could emerge by mid-decade, Rattner said, likely first appearing as standalone digital RF transceivers.
The Atom prototype includes a digital 2.4 GHz RF transmitter Intel will describe in a separate paper (9.4). “It’s not just the power amp which is part of this design, but also a digital phase modulator for Wi-Fi that uses two digital signals in phase to provide OFDM modulation,” he said.
“We can now build a Wi-Fi radio and hopefully in the not too distant future a cellular radio to make digital RF practical for SoCs,” he added.
“You may have seen baseband MACs integrated [in mobile applications processors] but RF integration is very rare to non-existent [in commercial chips] and full digital integration has yet to come to any of these products--many of these blocks are the first of their ilk,” Rattner said.
Intel’s research group already has “transferred individual circuit blocks such as low noise power amps, ADCs, switching power amps and other blocks” to its product teams.
“I think we have covered the big blocks, but there is certainly work to do in interfaces,” Rattner said. “The challenge is to do enough risk reduction,” he said.
“Almost all these designs have second- or third-generation versions now in the labs,” he said.
Good point @DuckD...a friend of mine, Bogdan Staszewski, invented digital RF while with TI (he is a prof at Delft U now)...I would be also curious what is different in Intel's digital RF approach? something must be as TI patented original solution quite heavily...Kris
As I knew, the so called digital RF already show up almost 10 years ago, for example such as TI delivery bunch of digRF based chips. so Is anybody here can point out What Intel doing now ,is really different from TO did before.
Integrated radios with CPU's is a logical (no pun intended) step as portable "smart" devices continue to evolve with more sophisticated features. WiFi is a good choice as it can be very widely applicable in businesses and homes in the form of installed networks or hot spots. If the integration is successful look for a whole new range of devices that can benefit from it, not just the smart portable devices.
I didn't know Intel is at number 1 position in the semiconductor industry. Now with all the buzz about Intel having a little trouble to take a bigger piece in the embedded market, I thought some other vendor was on the top, like TI which is delivering a whole range of semiconductors now that it acquired National Semiconductor.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.