Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Working together to design robust silicon chips

13.11.2009
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:
http://www.eureka.be

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

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Did you know that the wrapping of Easter eggs benefits from specialty light sources?
13.04.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

nachricht To e-, or not to e-, the question for the exotic 'Si-III' phase of silicon
05.04.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

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: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>