Engineering graduate student to be included in IEEE Micro's Top Picks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With one of the most significant computer architecture papers of 2015, computer science and engineering graduate student Kaishang Ma is being recognized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Micro’s Top Picks.

Ma’s research focuses on the nonvolatile processors powered by harvested energy. Core contributions of this work include the persistence of the micro-architectural state within the nonvolatile processor in the absence of power, the mechanisms and policies for prudent dynamic management of the persistence of this state and how nonvolatile processors can expand the scope of applications for battery-less systems.

Ma is the lead author of “Architecture Exploration for Ambient Energy Harvesting Nonvolatile Processors.” IEEE’s Micro magazine chose the paper for its May/June 2016 “Micro’s Top Picks from the Computer Architecture Conferences” issue.

The paper notes that nonvolatile processors — which can retain their state when the power is interrupted — are a promising solution for energy-harvesting scenarios in which the available power supply is unstable and intermittent.

“This is the key feature of unstable harvested power,” said Ma. “Traditional processors always need to reset once the power is restored, which just makes it harder to utilize in this kind of unstable power supply scenario. Nonvolatile processors can back up and recover the computational states by internal distributed nonvolatile memory.”

The paper explores the design space for a nonvolatile processor across different architectures, input power sources and policies for maximizing forward progress in a framework calibrated using measured results from a fabricated nonvolatile processor. Ma and the other contributors propose a heterogeneous microarchitecture solution that efficiently capitalizes on ephemeral power surpluses.

“Kaisheng’s substantial efforts have been the key to achieving the high quality of this work,” said John Sampson, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at Penn State. “Being selected for this honor is considered notable in the field of computer architecture, and said issue will publish a follow-on article ‘Nonvolatile Processor Architectures: Efficient, Reliable Progress with Unstable Power’ that describes the work, its extensions and its potential impacts.”

Penn State postdoctoral scholar Xueqing Li, Penn State graduate students Yang Zheng and Karthik Swaminathan, University of California Santa Barbara graduate student Shuangchen Li, Tshinghua University professor Yongpan Liu and University of California Santa Barbara professor Yuan Xie contributed to this work, alongside Sampson and distinguished professor Vijaykrishnan Narayanan, in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The award-winning paper is from the IEEE Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture 2015.

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Last Updated June 07, 2016