In a first of its kind, a group of researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Madras has successfully developed an independent microprocessor named ‘Shakti’ intended to aid the country’s defense, nuclear power, and government agencies to combat threats from systems infected by back-door and hardware Trojans.
The microprocessors are being manufactured in Chandigarh by the Semiconductor Laboratory of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). It is being said that Intel’s plant in Oregon, USA, had produced 300 early versions of the ‘Shakti’ chip, “RISECREEK”, as early as this June. This innovation is the product of a project launched in 2011, which received a monetary grant of Rs. 11 crores ($1.5 million) is 2017.
The design of the microprocessor is based on an open instruction set architecture (ISA) called RISC-V, using which anyone can change the design of the microprocessors, along with being able to manufacture, and sell them. There is, however, a small difference between the chips being produced in India and those being produced in the USA, with the chips being made in India using the 180nm process, while the ones being made in the USA are using the 20nm process. This means that while the chips may not be used in smartphones as of yet, they are ready for use in other smart devices like washing machines.
Commenting on the project Professor Veezhinathan, of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, leading the team of Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems Engineering (RISE) laboratories, has said: “We have proven that we can design, develop and manufacture microprocessors in India. This is very important for the country, and all countries want to have a design part. Even from a safety point of view, local design becomes important.” He has added saying that the modern synthesis language named Bluespec has been used for the chips.
The team is also working on a microprocessor for supercomputers going by the name of ‘Prashakti’ which is anticipating a release in the later part of the year.