Researchers win best student paper for work making 5G devices more efficient

Written by
Scott Lyon
Sept. 14, 2020

A Princeton research team was co-awarded best student paper at the 2020 IEEE International Microwave Symposium, the flagship conference for wireless technologies for the fifth generation (5G) and beyond.

Led by Kaushik Sengupta, associate professor of electrical engineering, the team put forward a new kind of wireless chip architecture that would improve the quality of wireless signals in 5G applications. The paper introduces a design methodology for making future wireless-systems devices more efficient across their full range of power use and signal frequencies.

With 5G technology, engineers have found ways to use very high-frequency signals that will form the basis of future networks supporting vast amounts of wireless data. The millimeter-wave part of the electromagnetic spectrum, at 10 to 20 times the signal frequency of current wireless technologies, promises to connect trillions of networked devices at many gigabits per second, leading to a truly intelligent and connected world. But to realize such an expansive vision, these devices will need to be highly energy efficient as well.

“Making devices work efficiently at these frequencies is incredibly hard," Sengupta said. "What makes it more challenging is that the faster the wireless data rates you try to achieve, with better use of the spectrum, the worse the energy efficiency. The paper presents a wireless transmitter architecture that addresses all of these issues simultaneously. This is the key breakthrough.”  

The paper demonstrates techniques to enable a programmable millimeter-wave wireless transmitter that is adaptable to the available spectrum and that can operate with high data rates in an energy efficient fashion. A non-provisional patent is in preparation to be filed.

"We're looking for greater efficiency at all power variations," said Tushar Sharma, a co-author of the paper and a former postdoctoral researcher in Sengupta's lab, now a senior design engineer at NXP Semiconductors. According to the researchers, solving the efficiency problems with high-frequency systems operating at relatively low power would ultimately bring a higher quality signal for new applications in everything from augmented and virtual reality to industrial automation to wireless sensing and imaging systems.

"We're catching the 5G wave," Sharma said.

The team also included first author Chandrakanth Chappidi, a former graduate student in electrical engineering who received his Ph.D. in 2019, and Zheng Liu, a current graduate student.

This research was supported by primarily by Semiconductor Research Corporation, and in parts by the DARPA Young Faculty Award Program.