Prof. Alexander Fish: Designing Tomorrow’s Microchip Today

With advancements in computing technology and expansion of mobile applications handling more and more information at faster rates, energy consumption has emerged as the primary concern for scientists working in the area of “very large scale integration” (VLSI) design. VLSI is the process of creating integrated circuits by combining millions of transistors into a single chip. In other words, how do you keep microprocessors running at high performance levels without burning them out, and cell phones, digital cameras, and bio-medical devices working without the constant need to recharge them?

That’s where Prof. Alexander Fish comes in. He is associate professor at the Faculty of Engineering at BIU and head of the microelectronics track. A new recruit from Ben-Gurion University, his research focuses on designing energy-efficient chips that consume less energy. That’s good news not only for computers, but also for portable battery-operated devices in which energy consumption is critical. It is energy consumption that determines the lifetime of a battery or the time between recharges.

“Energy consumption is one of the fundamental limits in both high performance microprocessors and low-to-medium performance portable battery-operated systems,” Prof. Fish explains. “In high-performance devices, the challenge is to make sure the temperature at the chip does not exceed the maximum allowable level or else the device will fail. So, the question becomes: How do we improve performance while reducing energy? “In portable battery-operated systems, the question is: How do we extend the life of a device that is powered by the limited energy of a battery? Imagine if you could recharge your laptop just once a week, or your cell phone just once a month.”

Developing new technologies for energy-efficiency in electronics is in high demand these days and Prof. Fish’s arrival at BIU puts its Faculty of Engineering in the spotlight of VLSI research. A senior lecturer at Ben-Gurion University where he founded the Low Power Circuits and Systems laboratory, at BIU he heads a new microelectronics program that includes teaching and research. Also, he is working to establish the Energy Efficient Electronics and Applications (E3A) laboratories, an initiative that will employ graduate and doctoral students to design, model and measure energy-efficient chips and low-voltage circuits.

“This is the beginning of something new at Bar-Ilan and something unique in Israel,” he says. “Researchers at other universities are incorporating aspects of energy-efficient design into their work but nowhere in Israel is energy efficiency the main goal.”

The E3 A labs, to be up and running soon, will also conduct research in collaboration with leading labs in Israel and around the world. Prof. Fish envisions them as a first step toward the larger goal of establishing a new research center that will have the support of semiconductor companies and other worldwide leading research centers. “I saw coming to Bar-Ilan as a huge opportunity. First of all, I liked the people and the spirit here. But also, the Faculty of Engineering and, in particular, the microelectronics track, is areas that are growing quickly. Developing the microelectronics track almost from its beginning is both an opportunity and a challenge for me.”

Prof. Fish, who was born in Ukraine and moved to Israel with his parents when he was 14, earned his BSc degree in Electrical Engineering at the Technion and his MSc and PhD (summa cum laude) degrees at Ben-Gurion. He spent two years at the University of Calgary in Canada as a postdoctoral fellow, then returned and joined the faculty at Ben-Gurion. A teacher of note - in 2005 and 2012 he received Ben Gurion’s “Teaching Excellence” Award - he has authored more than 70 scientific papers, submitted 15 patent applications, published two book chapters, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of the MDPI Journal of Low Power Electronics and Applications and associate editor for the IEEE Sensors Journal. An IAF (Israel Air Force) reservist, he believes it is important for Israeli academics abroad to return home to work. “Israel is our home and we have to develop our home,” he says. “I feel it’s very important to contribute to education in Israel and to the development of industry here.” He adds that he was always sure he’d return from Canada if he could, and is grateful for the opportunity BIU has afforded him to continue his research.
For more on Prof. Fish click here.