Size, Weight, and Power Reduction Using Application-Specific Integrated Circuit Technology in Electronics Systems, 16-R9608

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Principal Investigators
Jennifer L. Alvarez
Charles W. Howard
Ronnie L. Killough
Andrew R. Moore

Inclusive Dates:  03/01/06 – Current

Background - Size, weight, and power consumption must be minimized in embedded systems. Often, analog hardware, digital hardware, and software for embedded system designs must function within the limitations of off-the-shelf integrated circuits (ICs). This limitation sometimes results in the use of additional ICs and/or in the use of only a portion of the available functionality within an IC, increasing the size, weight, and power consumption of the product. Instead, it is advantageous to have a design that uses only the required hardware.

Approach - The purpose of this internal research project is to develop SwRI capabilities to customize ICs for which off-the-shelf products are not available. The program involves several divisions, including the Automation and Data Systems, Applied Physics, Space Science and Engineering, and the Signal Exploitation and Geolocation Divisions. Although there is a different focus in each participating division, the primary goals and desired outcomes of the project are beneficial to all. The overarching program objectives are to:

  • Understand the engineering trade space among technology options including functional performance, environmental tolerance, size, weight, power consumption, and cost.
  • Understand the design flow, level of effort and resource requirements for developing solutions based on customized hardware. This includes reconfigurable and non-reconfigurable customized computing systems and architectures.
  • Obtain experience with representative techniques, technologies, and tool sets by designing, fabricating, and testing an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC).
  • Establish at SwRI a sustainable ASIC design capability by capturing the process, resources and organizational expertise in a multidivision ASIC focus group.

Accomplishments - The team has completed in-depth surveys of applicable tools suites, ASIC process technologies and state-of-the-art reconfigurable computing technologies. We also completed a trade-off analysis of performance, fabrication or hardware platform costs, tool investments, and tool complexity. The results of this work led to the recent purchase of IC software design tools and the identification of applicable hardware options. We have gained experience with the tools through designing ASIC components. We also characterized processing throughput performance on a reconfigurable platform.

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