R2: Ultra-low-power architectures and circuits

Research line leader: Marco Bekooij (UT/NXP)

Advanced processor platforms used for processing incoming signals, understanding them and taking appropriate actions, form the heart of autonomous devices. These processors, with the right software, make the sensor systems smart. State-of-the-art low-power signal processors typically employ an architecture that is either very specific or too generic; application specific architectures cannot be reused and generic architectures are not energy efficient (see right box). Therefore, autonomous devices need heterogeneous processing platforms, e.g., combining one or more general purpose CPUs, vector processing and more dedicated accelerators. These platforms are complex to design and very difficult to program efficiently (see R4). ZERO’s research line R2 tackles several important low-power challenges:

  • Design of heterogeneous processing architectures, with adequate energy control options.
  • Research boundaries between architecture flexibility and application specificity.
  • Use approximate computing for ultra-low power.
  • Exploit new low power circuit techniques, like charge coupling.
  • Develop tighter integrated DC/DC conversion for improved efficiency and lower ripple, by feeding the converter with information about currents and voltage needed in the near future, such that sufficient flux/charge can be built-up in the converter.