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IISc Student wins Cadence Design Contest 2015 for a chip that detects obstacles from a distance

Aditya Chowdary, an M.Tech student at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has been awarded the first place in the 'Cadence® Design Contest 2015' conducted by Cadence Design Systems. Aditya, from the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, IISc, under the guidance of Prof. Gaurab Banerjee from the ECE department, has designed a device to detect approaching obstacles from a distance.

The machinery is built on a tiny silicon chip that contains a ‘radar transceiver’ (a device that can transmit and receive radar signals or radio waves). The setup consists of two antennae and a silicon chip. The transmitting antenna sends out a signal from the chip. The obstacle reflects the signal and the receiving antenna senses it. The frequency of this received signal is proportional to the distance from the obstacle.

Entries for the contest were judged based on criteria such as inventiveness, complexity, feasibility, breadth of design and clarity of communication. Aditya has successfully built a fully functional prototype as a part of his Master’s Thesis project, which has won the prize under the Post Graduate category as per the results announced on 23rd July.

“We were quite confident of winning since there weren’t many tape-outs. Most entries were based on simulations, but ours was already implemented in a silicon system”, said Aditya. This project titled “Design of X-Band FMCW Radar Transceiver in 130 nm CMOS Technology” bagged the first place.

Most commercial radios, such as those inside mobile phones, operate at frequencies below 2 GHz. As the frequency of operation goes up, the complexity of an integrated radio goes up significantly. This device, a first from academia in India, was designed at 10 GHz, to study the system integration issues before it can be scaled up to 60 GHz.

This technology has the potential to find the relative velocity of a target and the direction of arrival of the reflected signal. It can hence be incorporated into high-end automobiles to provide collision warning, parking assistance, blind spot detection and auto braking. Moreover, it can recognize hand gestures and can be used in watches, TVs and Computers. It will obviate the use of the remote control by recognising gestures to switch between channels.

Prof. Banerjee says, “It requires a very specialized skillset to design a semiconductor chip from start to finish in one year. It is an extraordinary feat for a master’s student to design a working prototype in such short time.” He adds, “Aditya is an extremely bright and motivated student. He deserves all the credit and appreciation for this award.”

Prof. Banerjee’s team is continuing this work by further refining the technology. They aim to improve the reliability of this device and implement the system at 60 GHz on a silicon chip.

This development work was performed under a project at IISc to design a transceiver system that operates at 60 GHz. The project is funded by the Government of India, under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) in the Ministry of Communications and IT. This project is substantially aligned with the goals of the “Make in India” and the “National Skills Development” initiatives.

Contact details

Dr. Gaurab Banerjee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering, Indian Institute of Science.

Email: banerjee@ece.iisc.ernet.in

Aditya Chowdary graduated from the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, Indian Institute of Science with an M.Tech degree in July 2015.

Email: aditya.iisc13@gmail.com