Industry partnership taking on telecom's environmental impact to receive Dean for Research Innovation funding

Wednesday, Jul 21, 2021
by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research

Nine exploratory projects have been selected to receive support through the Dean for Research Innovation Funds, including one industrial partnership that takes on the environmental impacts of information and communications technology.

The expansion of data centers, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and the switch to 5G cellular communications, which draws three times more electricity than 4G networks, is driving massive increases in energy usage. A collaboration between Minjie Chen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and EnaChip, a New Jersey-based semiconductor energy startup, aims to shrink the size and improve the energy efficiency of telecommunications, computing and power electronics systems.

All of the nine new initiatives are in the early stages of investigation — a time when it is typically difficult to find sources of research funding. To kick-start promising ideas, the Dean for Research Innovation Fund, now in its eighth year, provides the fuel that enables research to blaze new trails.

“Bold ideas can sometimes need a champion, someone who is willing to take a chance on funding ideas that have never been tried before, or are new in some way,” said Dean for Research Pablo G. Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor of Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of chemical and biological engineering. “This funding program gives faculty members and their teams that chance.”

Chen has developed a systematic approach to reduce the size of the electronics delivering power to integrated circuits and microprocessors, and greatly reduce energy loss, enabling more compact and energy efficient systems. Chen will collaborate with EnaChip Inc. to evaluate a new system involving the company’s unique silicon integrated magnetic components and packaging techniques. The collaboration will garner input on how to deploy this new technology from industry partners including Google, Intel, and pSemi Corporation. EnaChip will provide matching funds in the project's second year.