Sarma Vrudhula, a professor of computer science and engineering in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, has been named a Senior Member of the United States National Academy of Inventors. He is one of 34 academic inventors named to the new class.
Vrudhula holds 17 patents with several others pending. Of the 17, one he is particularly proud of is a patent of a circuit that behaves like rudimentary binary neurons.
“This is really exciting because I’m embedding them in conventional logic circuits to improve their power consumption, reduce area all without sacrificing performance,” says Vrudhula, who leads the Center for Embedded Systems at ASU. “We recently applied for another patent of the same [type], but that employs flash technology.”
Vrudhula’s solution can address a major problem in chip security — namely, the issue of theft of integrated circuit technology by a foundry. This is a serious concern for the U.S. Department of Defense as there is currently no secure place in the U.S. to fabricate integrated circuits that go in defense hardware.
“Our approach will make copying or reverse-engineering an IC by a foundry completely useless,” says Vrudhula. “I am most excited about this at the moment. I’m collaborating with Professor Sunil Khatri from Texas A&M University on this technology.”
Vrudhula has worked in the VLSI CAD (very large-scale integration computer-aided design) area for nearly 30 years.
“My most valuable contributions have been in making circuits and systems energy efficient,” says Vrudhula. “That includes new circuit architectures and optimizing the operation of processors at run-time.”
For Vrudhula, the best part of the NAI honor is that he gets to involve students in his efforts to develop patentable technology.
“The students are very motivated by patents because it greatly increases their marketability after graduation,” he says. “The whole process has infused in them the attitude of creative risk-taking and exposed them to the challenges, responsibilities and rewards of entrepreneurial research.”