Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Processor design gets mathematical sweetener

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:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Next Generation Cryptography
20.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Sichere Informationstechnologie SIT

nachricht TIB’s Visual Analytics Research Group to develop methods for person detection and visualisation
19.03.2018 | Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB)

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>