from the chip-for-everybody-and-everything dept.
If you've been following statistics about the Internet of Things (IoT), which is growing by billions of devices every year, the numbers are pretty mind-boggling. But the truth is that expensive silicon chips are actually holding this rampant growth back.
But now researchers have designed a new plastic processor, which they estimate will be able to be mass-produced for less than a penny. That's right — the new Flexicore chips could kick-start a world in which everything — from bandages to bananas — could have a chip, according to a report by IEEE Spectrum.
The chip designs we currently use — even for the most basic microcontrollers — are too complex to be mass-produced in plastic: You surely won't see a plastic processor on our list of best CPUs for gaming. [...]
To address the peculiarities of plastic chip design, the University of Illinois team built the new Flexicore processor design from scratch. Because yields dive when processor gate count rise, they decided to make a minimal design that reduced the gate count and used 4-bit and 8-bit logic instead of 16-bit or 32-bit alternatives. [...]
A sample 4-bit FlexiCore processor is 5.6mm square and contains 2,104 semiconductor devices, similar to a classic Intel 4004 CPU. [...]
With this sub-penny plastic processor, and the move of flexible electronics from niche to mainstream, we may be seeing the dawn of truly ubiquitous electronics. The above research is going to be presented at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture later this month, so we should learn more about it and further development plans soon.
We speed headlong into our (dystopian?) IoT future.