Lego-style wireless silicon stacking awarded parliament prize
Postgraduate researcher Ben Fletcher has won the IEEE Communications Society Prize for his innovative stacking of silicon chips at the STEM for Britain exhibition.
The University of Southampton electronics engineer is investigating wireless communication between layers of 3D integrated circuits (3D-ICs) with the goal of developing pick and mix circuit blocks that could be stacked like Lego.
Research prototypes of his low-power wireless interface would be ideally suited to the exploding market of low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Ben presented his work to dozens of Members of both Houses of Parliament at Portcullis House on Monday 9 March.
STEM for Britain raises the profile of Britain's early-stage researchers through a poster competition and prizes in biosciences, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics. The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) UK & Ireland Communications Society recognises outstanding contributions to future communications networks.
"There were lots of very impressive poster presentations at STEM for Britain, with around 50 in the Engineering category, so I am delighted to have received this award," Ben says. "The event was a great platform to raise awareness of my research and it was exciting to have the unique opportunity to present at Westminster."
Ben spent the first 18 months of his PhD within Southamptons School of Electronics and Computer Science and started an internship with industry partner Arm in summer 2018. He is now predominantly based at Arm's Cambridge office, within the Devices Circuits and Systems research group.
Integrated circuits (ICs), or silicon chips, are the building blocks of almost all electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets. Three dimensional integrated circuits are a new generation of ICs that integrate multiple layers vertically, allowing devices to incorporate more diverse functionality and function quicker, whilst consuming less power. Using wireless links to communicate between layers of a 3D-IC has potential to significantly reduce manufacturing costs compared with existing approaches, offering a 3D integration at an affordable IoT price point.
Ben's Arm-ECS research has developed two silicon test chips. The first included a low-power transceiver design that won the best paper award at the IEEE International Symposium on Low Power Electronic Design (ISLPED) 2019. Results about this first chip were also presented at the prestigious European Solid-State Circuits Conference (ESSCIRC) 2019.
"Our measurements show impressive energy reductions, with the full transceiver consuming only 10.8pJ/bit, 30% less than state-of-the-art transceivers," Ben says. "We have also just finished testing our second chip which delivered promising results. This second chip performs simultaneous wireless data and power transmission and results will hopefully be published soon."
Ben was one of eight promising Southampton researchers to exhibit at STEM for Britain 2020. Cristina Argudin Violante represented the School of Biological Sciences, Sam Perry presented the latest advances in Chemistry, Fatumah Atuhaire and Isobel Webster exhibited in mathematics and Krzysztof Herdzik was selected in Physics, while Elaine Ho and Maria Ramos-Suarez also featured in the Engineering category.