Designing and building microprocessors from the ground up is no easy task. But a research team from IIT-Madras managed to create India’s first indigenously built microprocessor.
Unlike China, India doesn’t have massive fabrication plants, so innovations like these help improve self-reliance on an import based sector. The processor was fabricated by the Semi-Conductor Laboratory (SCL) in India, which is based on the old 180nm fabrication process.
The Shakti line of microprocessors are based on RISC V, which is an open-source instruction set architecture. An initial batch of 300 chips, codenamed RISECREEK was produced under Project Shakti, in July this year, but it was fabricated on Intel’s Multinational Chip Manufacturing facility at Oregon, USA. The chips fabricated in the US were on the 20nm process. Lead Researcher on the project, Prof. Kamakoti Veezhinathan stated “With the advent of Digital India, there are several applications that require customizable processor cores. The 180nm fabrication facility at SCL Chandigarh is crucial in getting these cores manufacturers within our Country“.
There’s a lack of modern fabrication units in India and new research and development is a step in the right direction. Fabrication plants take billions of dollars to set up, so investors are often unwilling to set them up in new places lacking infrastructure.
The researchers behind this project also state that the Shakti microprocessors are similar to international standards, and that they can used for a variety of tasks like consumer electronics, wireless modems, etc. Although the microprocessors fabricated in the Chandigarh plant won’t work with mobile devices, due to their old 180nm manufacturing process, which is too inefficient for such use.
Hopefully the Shakti processors can find some commercial use and cut India’s dependency on chips manufactured elsewhere, also paving the way for future research and development.