Researchers from the University of California, Davis, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have designed the world’s first microchip containing 1,000 independent programmable processors that have a maximum computation rate of 1.78 trillion instructions per second and contains 621 million transistors that are believed to be the fastest ever chip created in a university lab.

KiloCore

Image: KiloCore

The energy-efficient KiloCore chip was showcased at the 2016 Symposium on VLSI Technology and Circuits in Honolulu on June 16. Bevan Baas, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who led the team that designed the chip architecture said in a statement that it is the world’s first 1,000-processor chip and the highest clock rate processor ever designed in a university.

While there have been other multiple processor chips designed but none has exceeded about 300 processors, according to researchers. Most of them were developed for research purposes and few are sold commercially.

Created by IBM using their 32nm CMOS technology, KiloCore chip’s each processor core can run its own small programme individually of the others, which is essentially more adaptable strategy than the Single-Instruction-Multiple-Data approaches utilised by processors such as graphics processing unit (GPU).

The objective is to break an application up into many small pieces, each which can operate side by side on different processors, facilitating high throughput with lower energy use, Baas said.

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Since each processor is individually clocked, it will shut itself down automatically to further save energy when not required, according to Brent Bohnenstiehl, a graduate student at UC Davis who developed the principal architecture.

Cores run at an average maximum clock frequency of 1.78 GigaHertz, and they send data to each other directly instead of using a pooled memory area that can become an obstruction for data. According to Baas, the chip is the most energy-efficient many-core processor ever reported. For instance, the 1,000 processors can carry through 115 billion instructions per second while depleting only 0.7 Watts, low enough to be powered by a single AA battery. The KiloCore chip accomplishes instructions almost 100 times more efficiently than a modern laptop processor.

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Applications already created for the chip include wireless coding/decoding, video processing, encryption, and other programs involving vast amounts of parallel data such as scientific data applications and data centre record processing, have also been developed.

The researcher’s team has completed a compiler and automatic programme mapping tools for use in programming the chip.