Asynchronous Cellular Automaton Provides Benefits Over Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (RFT-256)

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Invention Summary


North Dakota State University scientists have created a unique asynchronous cellular automaton which is believed to have several distinct advantages over currently available field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and similar computing devices.  These cellular automata are easily scaled from small circuits to large computing arrays.


  • Faster than FPGAs: The cellular automata are driven by logic triggers – and therefore run at logic speed, not clock speed.
  • Lower power: Individual cells only run when needed (when triggered), limiting the amount of power used.
  • Naturally scalable: The cellular automata can be physically large.  Because of their structure, they are easily extended without having to change the architecture of the chip.
  • Less expensive: Because of the repeatable architecture, it is believed they will be cheaper than FPGAs when manufactured in quantity.
  • Thermally self-regulating: Built in circuitry controls rate of computation to prevent overheating

Invention Premise

The present invention is an initial version of a cellular automaton (CA) in which computation is driven by triggers instead of by a clock signal. A trigger is a single pulse that is generated within and used by a cell. A trigger usually signifies the arrival of a bit of data. Upon receipt of a trigger, the receiving cell generates a new pulse, thus ensuring the integrity (in particular, the duration) of the pulse. The circuitry that generates the trigger is called a trigger generator. The trigger generator delays the production of the new pulse until the circuitry within the cell has had sufficient time to process the input data bit and produce a result. The new pulse is used to latch the result and to trigger an adjacent cell. Triggers are cell-to-cell events by which cellular computations are initiated. A computation in a CA proceeds along paths of cascaded trigger events.


This technology is patented with fully preserved US patent rights (issued US patent 7,956,639), and is available for licensing/partnering opportunities.


Henry Nowak, Technology Manager

NDSURF Tech Key RFT, 256, RFT256 

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