RealTime IT News

New Clock Design Promises Huge Power Savings

Maybe you can't make time fly, but some clever Silicon Valley engineers have devised technology to improve on-chip clock performance.

Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Multigig emerged from stealth mode this week to announce its first product, RotaryWave. The company claimed RotaryWave will offer as much as a 75 percent energy savings over standard clock design. Multigig said RotaryWave is the first major advance in semiconductor clock design in the last several decades.

With 22 patents granted and 50 pending, Multigig is confident it has carved out a uniquely competitive offering. The immediate market is for new ADCs and silicon timing devices Multigig plans to design itself, but there is high interest in working with microprocessor makers as well.

"This does have microprocessor implications," Haris Basit, Multigig's chief operating officer, told internetnews.com. "But that would have to be a partnership which takes longer so our first priority is in the RF analog area."

Basit said DSPs, graphics and other heavily pipelined chips could benefit the most from the RotaryWave technology. Whereas the energy from timing pulses flow one way through a chip and eventually discharge, RotaryWave captures and recycles most of the charge. "A normal clock is highly wasteful," said Basit.

"Speeds and feeds" used to be the main point of emphasis in the arms race between competing chipmakers, but energy savings and performance-per-watt specs have risen in prominence as companies look to rein in energy costs. Multigig said its technology is ideally suited for mobile telecommunications, imaging and military applications, where standard clock technology has proven to be inadequate or too power-hungry.

"The importance of low-power clocks cannot be overstated," Will Strauss, principal analyst at Forward Concepts, said in a statement. "To enable the next-generation of high performance DPS and other architectures, it is critical to lower the power burden imposed by existing clock design."

Strauss credited Multigig for using current design methodologies and process technologies to enable low-power, high-performance chips.

Multigig was founded in 1999 and the focus wasn't on power savings. "Hindsight is 20/20," said Basit. "The first few years of the company, after [company founder and chief technology officer] John Wood invented the technology, he solved a lot of problems in clock design. It wasn't until 2004 we really looked to productize those advances.