The ADC (Analog to Digital Conververter) that IBM and EPFL have developed enable the possibility of converting analog to digital signals at such a fast rate that they could enable 100 Gbps internet connections. The chips themselves were designed to help resolve the issues that are found when collecting vast amounts of data. Currently, that problem is most commonly found in the realm of big data, which IBM claims is growing at a rate of 60% per year. As more and more of our analog sensors and networks begin to be enabled through ‘smarter’ networks, the need to be able to quickly convert and analyze that data will grow ever greater.

As such, the need to increase the ability to transmit large amounts of data across networks quickly will be invaluable. This ADC manufactured by IBM in their East Fishkill, New York facility was built on their 32nm SOI CMOS process with an area of 22×70 µm2. This chip is capable of generating one billion analog-to digital conversions per second operating from a 1V power line. The total power consumption of this chip is 3.1 mW, effectively very little when the amount of processing that is being done is taken into account.

This ADC is being considered to be used to help convert analog signals generated by the Big Bang and to capture and convert that data digitally. This project is called DOME and is an effort to help create a fundamental IT infrastructure roadmap for the SKA, which is the space telescope, designed to probe the universe for various purposes, first and foremost about the Big Bang. The amount of analog data that this SKA will generate will be the likes of which has never been seen before, this also extends to the amount of digital data generated as well. The SKA is expected to produce ten times the amount of analog data from its array as is currently seen in the entire world?s internet traffic.

Because there will be so many different antennas located across a broad area, there will be a need to reduce power consumption as much as possible. As such, these high throughput and low power ADC chips could be the perfect solution to the analog to digital conversion problem posed by the SKA. However, there are still many other challenges that need to be overcome in order for the SKA to be an operational project and some of those solutions haven?t been invented yet. We?re glad to hear that IBM?s fab facility has been able to facilitate this research and possibly enable faster internet for everyone as a byproduct.

Image Source: IBM Flickr