Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Working together to design robust silicon chips

Designers of high-speed silicon chips have often had to compromise on performance levels for their integrated circuit designs because of physical weaknesses appearing during design verification or even in production.

This has necessitated building redundancy into chip designs to allow for the imperfect environments of production and use that vary from the ideal of the design workbench. Issues such as voltage variations, thermal heat effects, electrostatic discharge, internal radiation and crosstalk can all downgrade the performance and reliability of a perfect design.

With circuit detail resolutions now descending to 65 and 45 nm, such problems are becoming ever more acute. All too often, chip designs pass traditional checks, yet fail when manufactured in silicon, forcing design teams to turn to costly diagnostic and repair methods or – worse still – throw the chip away.

Three major European semiconductor manufacturers – Infineon, NXP Semiconductors and STMicroelectronics – got together in ROBIN to define and deal with such problems early in the design phase, thus avoiding problems further down the development flow or in the production phase. They were joined by a laboratory with strong expertise in quantum physics and four electronic design automation (EDA) companies.

Favouring first silicon success

"Our most important target was to favour 'first silicon success' without affecting the performance of the circuits," explains project leader Philippe Garcin of STMicroelectronics, which started ROBIN. The other partners joined either because they had similar problems as in the case of Infineon and NXP, new solutions they intended to put on the open market in the case of the EDA companies or long-term solutions in mind as far as the research organisation was concerned.

The chipmaking partners formalised the problems, specified software tools, models and design flows with strong interoperability, and proposed complementary test cases. Together with the EDA partners, they built new solutions that are now available for exploitation in line with these specifications.

A key objective was to optimise the design approach to both existing 130 and 90 nm and future 65 and 45 nm technologies by defining the most efficient trade-offs between circuit robustness in terms of yield and reliability, and efficient use of technology affecting performance, density and power consumption. The challenge was to maintain or enhance existing performance levels, while improving design reliability and robustness.

Taking a bottom-up approach

"We took a bottom-up approach, from technology to chip level and then to system-in-package (SIP) level," says Garcin. "We examined a wide range of issues, from power and substrate effects through signal interference to manufacturing cost."

While applications require smaller voltages and higher frequencies, miniaturisation adds new risks of voltage distortions. To reduce design iterations and avoid unreliability or failures, ROBIN aimed to prevent these effects very early in the design flow. The project addressed signal corruption in power distribution and on the substrate, and took into account the effects of interconnect crosstalk and natural radiations.

The MEDEA+ project attained its goal of obtaining the best from available and emerging technologies by defining optimal trade-offs between circuit robustness in terms of yield and reliability, and efficient use of technology – performance, density and power consumption – down to 45 nm. For example, on inter-block couplings, ROBIN allowed a decrease of simulation time by factor of four in very critical radio-frequency circuits.

As support for the microelectronics industry, the ROBIN partners developed the basic concept for a unified chip/package data exchange (CPX) environment. The two industry standards – ESDA and JEDEC – used to measure electrostatic discharges were both evaluated and discussed. In the course of the project, the benefits of ROBIN were demonstrated in automotive, telecommunications and multimedia applications. Co-operation was highly successful within the different work groups.

Co-operation key to European success

As a result of ROBIN, partners' competitiveness was much improved, in particular for high reliability applications such as networking and medical. "Coming together within the MEDEA+ framework made an important difference," explains Garcin. "At the end of the project, among its 50 outcomes, about 80% were available for exploitation: the same results would not have been possible – either in terms of quantity or in terms of quantity – if the partners had worked alone.

"By aligning their requests, the industrial partners were able to prepare concerted specifications for their EDA tool providers. Thanks to the standards-based approach used in ROBIN, it is technically possible to share the results of the project across European industry – and the consortium is already taking the developments further in a new research project."

Niki Naska | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Infineon NXP STMicroelectronics chip design power consumption software tool

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Greater Range and Longer Lifetime
26.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

nachricht 3-D-printed magnets
26.10.2016 | Vienna University of Technology

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>