A research team from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has successfully designed the world’s smallest on-chip low-pass filter which is 1,000 times smaller than existing off-chip filters.
A low-pass filter is a circuit that allows low-frequency signals to pass through while reducing unwanted high-frequency signals from passing through. Compared to existing off-chip filters, which are discrete and bulky components, on-chip filters occupy a small area on integrated circuit chips, which can be found in portable devices such as mobile phones, laptops, vehicle-mounted radars, as well as speed guns used in traffic monitoring.
The successful completion of this research project was announced at the official opening of VIRTUS, the new Integrated Circuit Design Centre of Excellence, which was launched by NTU and the Economic Development Board just 10 months ago.
The man behind this invention is Professor Yeo Kiat Seng, Head of Circuits and Systems at NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The breakthrough in design for this filter is set to revolutionise wireless communication.
“This new low-pass filter can lead to a significant improvement in signal quality as it removes nearly all unwanted interferences and noise in the environment,” said Professor Yeo.
“This results in clearer reception and enhanced clarity for mobile phone users and users of wireless applications such as Bluetooth and other mobile devices. For example, if you are speaking to your friend on your mobile phone in a noisy food centre or in a train, you would still be able to hear him clearly.”
“The filter also consumes less power and can be easily incorporated into existing integrated circuit chips at almost no cost. This means that in addition to better signal quality, consumers enjoy lower power consumption without any additional cost,” he added.
The new filter will pave the way for further research and development of high-performance integrated circuits and wireless communication products. Integrated circuit chips incorporating the filter can result in new applications for transmitting uncompressed digital audio/video data, and high-speed wireless local area networks for instantaneous wireless file transfer.
This filter project, which is part of a flagship commercialisation project, was jointly funded by NTU and Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd, the marketing and commercialisation arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
Seven top universities from the United States, Europe and China have signed Memoranda of Understanding with VIRTUS to collaborate in joint research in integrated circuit design. The universities are: the University of Michigan; Purdue University; University of California, Los Angeles; Technical University Munich; Linköping University; Zhejiang University; and Fudan University.
Besides these academic and research collaborations, six leading industry players — Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd, Infineon Technologies, Mediatek Inc, SiliconCore Technology, Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Co Pte Ltd, and Verigy — have pledged to contribute S$5.5m to VIRTUS in support of its advanced integrated circuit design research.
Other organisations that VIRTUS has forged close partnerships with include Agilent Technologies, United Microelectronics Corporation, Broadcom Corporation, and the Institute of Microelectronics.
At the opening ceremony of the centre, NTU President Dr Su Guaning said: “The establishment of VIRTUS is another manifestation of NTU’s commitment to excellence in research. With its modern, state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure, coupled with our eminent professors and talented students, the centre will become a formidable force that will enhance NTU’s dynamic research culture and help redefine the research landscape of the university.”
VIRTUS was launched in December 2009, in line with Singapore’s new growth areas in the electronics sector, namely green electronics, bioelectronics, plastic electronics and security. It brings together key players from the semiconductor industry to advance discovery and design as well as research and development in integrated circuit technology for applications in medical technology, clean technology and consumer electronics.
Professor Yeo was the Interim Director of VIRTUS until 1 October 2010 when Professor Atila Alvandpour was officially appointed Director of the centre. Professor Alvandpour is highly regarded internationally for his numerous contributions to advanced, state-of-the-art integrated circuits and systems solutions. Since 2003, Professor Alvandpour has been Head of the Electronic Devices Division at Linköping University, internationally recognised as a forerunner in research in cutting-edge speed, low-power integrated circuits.
The centre’s 20 full-time scientists will focus on designing the next-generation integrated circuits that are smaller but have more features and consume less power, as well as research new ways to harvest energy from the environment. Their research could yield a new generation of self-sustaining electronic devices that draw power from radio waves around them.
This means consumers can look forward to ultra-low powered or self-powered electronic devices such as laptops, PDAs, and mobile phones. Prototypes, being developed now, are likely to be commercialised for the mass market within a decade.
Apart from its primary focus in design, innovation and enterprise, VIRTUS is also committed to train more than 100 postgraduate students and researchers over the next five years.
In conjunction with the official opening of VIRTUS, a one-day seminar featuring six distinguished speakers from the semiconductor field was held today. More than 200 participants from academia and industry attended the seminar, which was supported by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.