Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed nonlinear chaos-based integrated circuits that enable computer chips to perform multiple functions with fewer transistors. These integrated circuits can be manufactured with off-the-shelf fabrication processes, and could lead to novel computer architectures that do more with less circuitry and fewer transistors.

A reconfigurable chaotic integrated circuit. (Photo: Behnam Kia)

A simple nonlinear transistor circuit contains very rich patterns. Different patterns that represent different functions coexist within the nonlinear dynamics of the system, and they are selectable. These dynamics-level behaviors are utilized to perform different processing tasks using the same circuit.

Traditionally, transistor-based circuits perform one task each. Computer processors operate by routing each instruction and its operands to the appropriate transistor circuit on the integrated circuit that implements that specific instruction. In the new design, the transistor circuit can be programmed to implement different instructions by morphing between different operations and functions.

Current processors do not utilize all the circuitry on the processor all the time. This design allows the circuit to be morphed and reconfigured to perform a desired digital function in each clock cycle. The heart of the design is an analog nonlinear circuit; the interface is fully digital, enabling the circuit to operate as a fully morphable digital circuit that can be easily connected to the other digital systems.

The researchers have produced an alternative approach for computing that is compatible with existing technology, and utilizes the same fabrication process and CAD tools as existing computer chips, which could aid commercial adoption.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 2017 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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