ECE News

Researchers meet
to advance nanocomputing

By Susan Trulove

Blacksburg, Va., April 4, 2006 -- Virginia Tech will be the venue for a Virginia conference on Nanocomputing Research on Wednesday, May 10, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and the Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Science and Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Virginia Tech. The program will be held in Owens Banquette hall and will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Registration deadline is Saturday, April 15.

Nanotechnology is the design and production of devices from individual atoms and molecules. A nanometer is about 10 atoms. Nanocomputing includes atomic scale integrated circuits, which would increase the capacity and speed of computing because many more circuits could fit on a microcomputer component.

"Traditional CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor)- based integrated circuits are now as small as 45 nanometers (nm) and it will be pushed beyond that," said Sandeep Shukla, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and one of the conference organizers. "Due to the scaling of silicon transistors, even the silicon industry is seeing nanotechnology. However, since scaling silicon can go only so far, we will soon see alternative devices, such as molecular switches, quantum dot cellular automata, and other alternatives to silicon for making more densely packed computing fabrics," said Shukla, who recently co-edited a book on these topics: Nano, Quantum and Molecular Computing: Implications to High Level Design and Validation (Kluwer, 2004).

The goal of the conference is to bring together researchers from Virginia and nearby universities to present the latest research results, exchange views of the progress and direction of nanocomputing research, and initiate collaborations to advance nanocomputing research in the state and/or region, said Shukla.

Presenters include Krishnendu Chakraborty, Chris Dwyer, and Alvin Lebeck, all of Duke University; Koray Karahaliloglu and Supriyo Bandyopadhyay of Virginia Commonwealth University; Llyod Harriot and Mircea R. Stan of the University of Virginia; Shamik Das of MITRE; and Shukla and Michael Hsiao of Virginia Tech.

Chakraborty, an NSF Career Award recipient, designs system-on-chip integrated circuits, distributed sensor networks, dynamic power management, and fault tolerance in real-time embedded systems, and designs automation techniques for micro fluidics-based biochips. Dwyer's research includes self-assembling computer architecture and self-assembling device fabrication. He and Lebeck are working on DNA-guided self-assembly. Additionally, Lebeck is exploring the impact of multithreaded architectures, including multiprocessors, on program performance.

Bandyopadhyay's current projects include quantum dot infrared photo detectors and quantum dot memory. Karahaliloglu is doing research on bioinspired circuit-systems and their applications, development of related computer-aided design and analysis tools, and nonlinear circuit-systems. His current projects are self-assembled nano devices as neural networks and design and analysis tools for neuromorphic systems (circuit based systems that mimic biosystems to implement models of neural systems for perception, motor control, or sensory processing as well as software algorithms).

Harriot, the electrical engineering department head at U.Va. and formerly with Bell labs, developed fundamental technology and applications for focused ion beams including defect repair and circuit diagnosis. Stan specializes in low-power encoding methods and circuits, computer-aided design for high-level power estimation, circuit design for novel low-power devices, and low-power system integration. He also works on CMOS and molecular device integration technology for computing.

The MITRE Corporation is conducting far-ranging research on nanocomputing, including more accurate electron-density-based quantum modeling algorithms for nanometer-scale structures that might be employed in an electronic nanocomputer and computationally generated immersive virtual environment that will provide the user with a realistic, "hands-on" experience of manipulating atoms and "sculpting" nanostructures.

Sandeep, whose Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) supports his research on designing, analyzing, and predicting performance of electronic systems, particularly embedded in automated systems, is deputy director of the Center for Embedded Systems for Critical Applications at Virginia Tech and director of the FERMAT Lab (Formal Engineering Research with Models, Abstraction, and Transformations). "Building computing architectures, or mapping computational algorithms, on molecular-scale computing fabrics poses challenges for the computer engineering community, as do reliability, power consumption, manufacturability, testing, and programming models," said Sandeep.

Hsiao, associate professor of electrical engineering at Virginia Tech and an NSF Career Award recipient, was previously with Digital Equipment Corporation, National Semiconductor Corporation, NEC USA and Intel. His current research interests include architectural-level and gate-level automatic test pattern generation, design verification and diagnosis, fault simulation and defect coverage evaluation, power estimation and management in VLSI, computer architecture, parallelization, and reliability.

"In various Virginia universities important advances in these fields are being made, courses are being taught, and researchers are presenting their work at various international forums. It would be nice to join the local research expertise towards a more consolidated research effort state-wide, towards larger interest by students and researchers and funding agencies," commented Shukla.