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Research to boost computer processing power

August 20, 2008

Research that promises technological advances to greatly increase computer processing capabilities will be funded by a $2 million Science Foundation Arizona grant to support work by four faculty members in ASU’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Raytheon Missile Systems.

The project will explore ways to maximize the computational power of multi-core processor systems. A multi-core processor is a single chip on which multiple processors (such as a Pentium microprocessor) are integrated.

“Five years ago, a desktop personal computer (PC) consisted of a single microprocessor, such as the Intel Pentium. In the next five years, the main chip on a desktop PC is expected to have upwards of 16 processors. In the not so distant future, desktop PCs will have hundreds of processors,” says Sarma Vrudhula, an ASU engineering professor and director of the ASU Consortium for Embedded Systems.

“This massive increase in processing capabilities will have a profound impact on every facet of human-machine interaction,” Vrudhula explains, “including medical instrumentation, robotics, transportation systems, smart-home environments, homeland security, aerospace and defense systems, and many other applications that are not yet on the drawing board.”

Vrudhula is on ASU’s team for the research project, along with fellow computer science and engineering faculty members Karam Chatha, Partha Dasgupta and Aviral Shrivastava.

The Raytheon Missile System team will be led by Raytheon principal engineering fellow, Reagan Branstetter, who has 36 years of experience in development of high performance processor systems and embedded missile processors.

The project will focus upon the development of thermal aware parallel programming techniques and operating system policies for next-generation multi-core processor systems.

The Science Foundation Arizona funding “provides ASU researchers a valuable opportunity to collaborate with Raytheon to make significant progress on this technology,” says Rick Shangraw, vice president of ASU’s Office of Research and Economic Affairs.

The joint effort is a fortuitous match, Shangraw says. Raytheon engineers have the experience and understanding of specific computational skills required to address high performance defense systems issues that can be solved only by using multi-core processors. The urgent needs of Raytheon Missile Systems enable ASU researchers to have an immediate impact on state-of-the-art defense systems.

The project also will have an impact on the design and deployment of advanced multi-core processor systems for commercial applications in the embedded semiconductor sector.

Science Foundation Arizona, a public/private partnership, works to spur innovation in science and technology in Arizona by supporting development of a diversified, knowledge-driven research and education infrastructure. To date, it has provided more than $33 million to investments in information and communications technology, sustainable systems and biomedical research.