IIT-Madras creates ‘Shakti’, India’s first microprocessor


India’s first indigenous microprocessor may soon power your mobile phones, surveillance cameras and smart meters.

‘Shakti’, designed, developed and booted by Indian Institute of Technology Madras, and with a microchip fabricated in the Semi-Conductor Laboratory of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) at Chandigarh, will reduce dependency on imported microchips and the risk of cyber attacks making it ideal for communication and defence sectors.

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Prof Kamakoti Veezhinathan, lead researcher at IITM’s RISE laboratory, said the design originated from an open source instruction set architecture, a set of basic instructions a processor understands, called RISC V, which makes it customisable to any device.

“We have done a normative design to show the feasibility. Different devices may need different type of hardware and may be even new features or instructions. All those aspects will now become easy now with our new design,” he said.

Bluespec, an open-source high level synthesis language, went into making the chips, he added.

The brain of all computing and electronic devices, many such microprocessors that are connected are used to operate larger high-speed systems and super computers.

In July, an initial batch of IIT-M-designed 300 chips, ‘RISECREEK’, was fabricated at Intel’s facility at Oregon, US, and later booted the Linux Operating System. Now, fabricated in the country, the microprocessor is completely indigenous.

However, Prof Veezhinathan said, the technology is different. The microprocessor fabricated in India was in a 180nm facility, while the one in the US was in a 20nm. lab.

“180nm, though outdated, is relevant as many applications across the world look for limited frequency. You do not need a washing machine or a surveillance camera running at one gigahertz. This chip can be used for any application where conventional power is available. While the other that we fabricated in the US earlier consumes less power and hence can be used in mobiles,” he said.

The microprocessor has already attracted the attention of Indian industry, and IIT-M is in touch with more than 13 companies involved in strategic and commercial applications.

The team is now ready with ‘Parashakti’, an advanced microprocessor for super computers. “The super scaler processer will be ready by December 2018. It will go into desktops and 32 of them interconnected can go into supercomputers.”