Researchers at the University of Florida and Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) announced a new silicon-based radar chip that could cost just US$10 to produce. Electronics for automotive radars currently cost hundreds of dollars to manufacture, resulting in radar systems that each cost car buyers thousands of dollars.
The current sets of commercial radar chips are made of exotic “III-V” compound materials such as Galium Arsenide (GaAs) and Indium Phosphide (InP). In contrast, the new radar chips in development by University of Florida and SRC will be based on popular digital CMOS silicon used nearly everywhere in electronics. As further cost savings for every driver and government, no new highway infrastructure will be required for effective application of the technology.
In addition to automobile parts suppliers and several car manufacturers who are sizing up the opportunity to feature this kind of technology in the next few years, interested chipmakers include IBM, TI, and Freescale. Bolstering the industry’s prospects for implementation of the radar chips, the University of Florida team, including students Ning Zhang, Shashank Nallani and Changhua Cao, has just demonstrated the first CMOS low-noise amplifier and 50-GHz sine wave generator. Those accomplishments help to meet the demanding criteria of low cost and high accuracy for this application. The repetitive electronic signal, or sine wave, generator uses a phase-locked loop to stabilize the oscillation frequency and can be fabricated in readily available 130-nm CMOS.
The market for the radar technology is expected to quickly grow to US$2B by the year 2010. The need for an affordable radar chip is high. Globally, for instance, the World Health Organization reports that 1.2 million lives are lost, and another 50 million injured annually, due to roadway crashes.