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Prizewinning Power Design for 3G Cell Phones

Vincent Leung wins SRC Silicon Germanium (SiGe) Design Challenge.

Working with two faculty advisors, graduate student Vincent Leung designed a chip that can dramatically improve talk times in thirdgeneration (3G) cell phones, by reducing their average power consumption by about 50%. The Electrical and Computer Engineering third-year graduate student was one of three winners in the premier student chip-design competition organized by the Semiconductor Research Corporation. Leung and his advisors – Center for Wireless Communications director Larry Larson, and visiting lecturer Prasad Gudem – took the second-place prize out of nearly 60 university teams competing in the SRC Silicon Germanium (SiGe) Design Challenge. The contest ran from May 2002 to July 2003.

A 3G cell phone can cut back its signal amplitude, depending on how far it is from the base station. But even putting out a weaker signal, the handset draws roughly the same amount of power from the battery. "Through a combination of architecture and circuit innovations, we developed a technique to lower power consumption considerably, especially when the handset is very close to the base station," says Leung. "In a nutshell, that's the basic innovation: 'current on demand.'

Leung's project won a $15,000 cash prize, to be used by the CWC for future chip fabrication and other services. Leung and Larson accepted the award in Dallas on August 29 at SRC's annual student conference, TECHCON 2003.