Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Processor design gets mathematical sweetener

30.01.2008
A breakthrough microchip specification language will allow ambiguous English to be replaced by a mathematically precise description of processor functions and design. Better yet, it applies to every stage of microprocssor design. The upshot could be millions of euros saved by microchip producers.

Microchip design is a tricky business. First, there is a question of functionality. Engineers describe, in minute detail, what a particular microchip must do, in plain English. It is an essential task detailing the chip specifications for each stage of the microchip creation process: design, fabrication and verification.

Unfortunately, English is not a mathematically precise language. So, problems of interpretation are rife. Worse, at each development stage engineers are obliged to render the English specification or ‘spec’ list into a mathematically precise function set.

But worst of all, each stage uses different languages, and those languages vary between microchip companies. It is hugely inefficient and prone to error.

That is all set to change. “Before property specification language (PSL), there was no industry standard for describing microchip properties,” says Cindy Eisner, coordinator of PROSYD and Senior Architect for Verification Technologies at the IBM Haifa Research Laboratory. “Now the IEEE has adopted PSL as a standard specification language. So, we now have an industry standard for microprocessor design.”

PROSYD’s mission was, first, to create tools to deploy PSL for chip design, fabrication and verification. The project then used these tools to demonstrate PSL’s benefits. Finally, it sought to foster a revolution in chip design by promoting PSL as a new industry standard.

Mission accomplished, with aplomb. The EU project sought to reduce design errors by 50% but also increase design efficiency. At the end of the two-year €7 million project, PROSYD demonstrated a staggering reduction in design errors of up to 100%, at the same time increasing design efficiency by 16 to 22%.

After designers become more familiar with the new toolset and language, an even more impressive gain in efficiency can be expected, suggests Eisner.

It seems obvious now. If one stage of microchip development needs a precise description language, then should we not describe every stage the same way?

Or perhaps not so obvious…
Not quite. PSL grew out of IBM’s verification language SUGAR created in 1994 to standardise just the verification stage. Before SUGAR, there was no standard way to verify a chip. Developers made up their own languages and passed them down, like grandma’s prized soup recipes.

But once SUGAR arrived, microprocessor design hit upon a Eureka moment: why not describe every stage of chip creation the same way! Then the IEEE, the professional association for electronic engineers, took up the task and PSL/SUGAR became the standard.

PROSYD’s key contribution is the large suite of tools that link PSL across the microchip production process. There are over 16 tools in the set, which make PSL easy to deploy.

This is not the only achievement by PROSYD, though. The project’s case studies offer firm proof of the benefits of PSL and the PROSYD tools.

The project also led to unexpected benefits. PROSYD developed a very cool tool that will take a list of desired properties and actually design a microprocessor sub-circuit with those functions – something like machines creating themselves.

“It’s a very early version of the tool,” remarks Eisner, “you couldn’t use it to design a whole chip, but it could be useful to design a simple sub-circuit. It would be very useful for circuits that are fairly simple, but time-consuming to do.”

PROSYD’s long-term goal, not envisioned for the lifetime of the original project, was nothing less than a revolution in the microchip industry. That seems to be happening already. Actors outside the project are taking PROSYD and running with it, setting up conferences and producing materials to disseminate PSL and PROSYD tools. So now, finally, microchip design gets a unified, mathematically precise description language.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89179

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes at the nanoscale
18.01.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Data analysis optimizes cyber-physical systems in telecommunications and building automation
18.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Algorithmen und Wissenschaftliches Rechnen SCAI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Bodyguards in the gut have a chemical weapon

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>