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!
How protons move through a fuel cell
22.06.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
Fraunhofer IZFP acquires lucrative EU project for increasing nuclear power plant safety
21.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zerstörungsfreie Prüfverfahren IZFP
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology