TU Delft stands strong at the 2018 “Chip Olympics”

News - 05 February 2018 - Communication

From February 11 to 15, the 65th International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) will be held in San Francisco. ISSCC, the most prestigious and competitive scientific conference in the field of chip design and sensors, is informally known as the “Chip Olympics.” With ten papers, a forum presentation and a tutorial, TU Delft continues its significant yearly contribution to this prestigious conference.

Efficient sensors

Four of the papers presented by TU Delft describe state-of-the-art research on sensors and the associated integrated electronics. Such sensors form the “ears, nose and eyes” of many electronic devices, ranging from smart phones to sensors for smart buildings.

Two papers continue a long-standing Delft tradition of improving the precision and energy consumption of on-chip temperature sensors. Sining Pan and Kofi Makinwa present a sensor that uses on-chip resistors to sense temperature, reducing area and energy consumption compared to prior designs. A paper by Woojun Choi, Kofi Makinwa, Youngcheol Chae and co-authors describes a resistor-based temperature sensor that can operate from a sub-1V supply voltage, making it compatible with the low supply voltages used in the newest IC technologies.

Zeyu Cai, Kofi Makinwa, Michiel Pertijs and co-authors present a sensor capable of measuring ambient CO2 concentration, with application in smart ventilation systems in buildings. The sensor is realized in standard IC technology, making it much cheaper and more energy efficient than prior designs. Finally, Long Xu, Han Huijsing and Kofi Makinwa present a chip that can sense the current drawn from a battery, capable of operating over a wide voltage and temperature range, making it suitable, for instance, for battery monitoring in electric vehicles.

Precision Electronics

Three of the TU Delft contributions, all from Kofi Makinwa’s group, relate to the realization of precise building blocks for analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits. Shoubhik Karmakar and co-authors present an analog-to-digital converter, a building block that translates the analog signals from the physical world around us to the binary signals that computers can handle. This design is intended for sensing and biomedical applications and employs a new technique, the dynamic zoom ADC, to achieve a very high resolution in an energy-efficient manner.

Thije Rooijers and co-authors report on an amplifier than can very accurately replicate its input signal without disturbing the signal source. This is a valuable building block for the readout of sensitive sensor systems, and for the realization of on-chip voltage references.

Çağrı Gürleyük and co-authors present an on-chip frequency reference, essentially the clock that forms the beating heart of on-chip computing systems, that has been implemented in standard IC technology and achieves a level of accuracy that makes it a candidate to replace costly quartz –crystal based references in some applications.

Imaging

Several TU Delft contributions report on advances in image sensors. A contribution by Augusto Ronchini Ximenes, Edoardo Charbon and colleagues focuses on LiDAR, a technique that enables, for instance, the automatic detection of the distance between an car and a pedestrian crossing the road. LiDAR uses a laser to illuminate a scene and forms an image of the distance of objects by measuring the arrival time of individual photons. The presented chip is capable of doing so for distances up to 430 m, and features a new technique to suppress interference.

In a paper by Chao Chen, Zhao Chen, Michiel Pertijs and co-authors, a chip for 3D ultrasonic imaging is presented. It demonstrates new techniques that facilitates the miniaturization of ultrasonic imaging devices, allowing them to be integrated, for instance, on a catheter. The key step taken in this paper is that all signals involved are turned into digital signals on the chip, allowing them to be communicated using far fewer cables than using the traditional analog approach.

In a broader perspective, Michiel Pertijs reports on recent advances from his group in an invited presentation on next-generation miniature ultrasound probes at the ISSCC Forum on Wireless Sensing, Radar and Imaging.

Other Delft contributions

TU Delft’s efforts on quantum computing have also lead to contributions to ISSCC, with Edoardo Charbon presenting a tutorial on the Basics of Quantum Computing. Finally, a paper co-authored by Bogdan Staszewski in collaboration with TSMC reports on a building block for next-generation Bluetooth Low-Energy radios.

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