Indian-Americans engineer radio chip that mimics human ear

June 4th, 2009 - 3:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 4 (IANS) Indian Americans have engineered a fast, ultra-broadband, low-power radio chip mimicking the inner ear, or cochlea, one that could enable wireless devices to receive cell phone, Internet, radio and TV signals.
Rahul Sarpeshkar, MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and his graduate student, Soumyajit Mandal, designed the chip. The chip is faster than any human-designed radio-frequency (RF) spectrum analyzer and also operates at a lower power.

Mandal graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India in June 2002. He completed his MSc in 2004 at MIT and is currently working on his Ph.D.

“The cochlea quickly gets the big picture of what’s going on in the sound spectrum,” said Sarpeshkar. “The more I started to look at the ear, the more I realized it’s like a super-radio with 3,500 parallel channels.”

They have also filed for a patent to incorporate the RF cochlea in a universal or software radio architecture that is designed to efficiently process a broad spectrum of signals including cellular phones, wireless Internet, FM, and other signals.

The RF cochlea mimics the structure and function of the biological cochlea, which uses fluid mechanics, piezo-electrics and neural signal processing to convert sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain.

The RF or radio frequency cochlea can perceive a 100-fold range of frequencies — in humans, from 100 to 10,000 Hz.

Sarpeshkar used the same design principles in his cochlea to create a device that can perceive signals at million-fold higher frequencies, which includes radio signals for most commercial wireless applications.

The device demonstrates what can happen when researchers take inspiration from fields outside their own, says Sarpeshkar, according to a MIT release.

Their research is slated for publication in the forthcoming edition of the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.

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