Reconfigurable Chip both Efficient and Flexible (Apr. 22, 2009) — Today’s technology needs high-performance, specialised computing systems.

reconfigurablechipA European consortium is developing a new kind of reconfigurable chip that is both efficient and flexible.

From washing machines to medical body scanners, from MP3 players to air traffic control systems, all these equipment needs high computing performance for signal processing and for making decisions,” says Philippe Bonnot of Thales Research and Technology who is coordinating the MORPHEUS project.

A normal microprocessor is cheap and flexible, can be used for many applications, but with power consumption at around 100 watts it is an inefficient use of energy and is not able to use in a limited space.

“We tried to solve all these problems by merging a processor with reconfigurable units embedded in the same component,” says Bonnot. “We think we can both have the flexibility and the efficiency.”

Reconfigurable hardware can be programmed to connect itself in many different ways. When a new application is required, the hardware can be modified just as a piece of software can be altered to do a different job.

“The reconfigurable technology makes specific solutions possible. You can design exactly what you need so you are efficient, but it’s reconfigurable so you can reuse the component for another application.”

Several different types of reconfigurable building blocks have been integrated into the chip to increase the range of possible applications.

“The flexibility we have in the chip is even higher because we inserted an operating system which can modify the configurations of the building blocks at run-time,” Bonnot explains. “So, during execution, we can modify the functions that are implemented in the reconfigurable units.”

A design company can take a MORPHEUS chip and assemble it to do exactly what a customer requires. It would have the advantages of an ASIC but would be cheaper as it could be manufactured in large numbers.

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