The University of Southampton

Prominent engineering magazine features Southampton research on the unexpected benefits of transistor aging

Published: 
19 May 2017
Illustration
Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi

University of Southampton research exploring how transistors and electronic circuits can improve with age has been highlighted in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) Spectrum magazine.

IEEE Spectrum, the flagship magazine of the world’s largest professional organisation devoted to engineering and applied sciences, features findings from a University-led three-year study into Resilient and Testable Energy-Efficient Digital Hardware.

The article quotes Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, leader of the study and Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, as it considers ‘The Benefits of Old Age (for Transistors)’. “People get older, but they also get wiser,” Bashir comments within the piece. “As you age there are a lot of bad things, but there are also some good things.” He concludes that there is evidence that one aspect of transistors’ power consumption improves with age.

IEEE Spectrum’s article is based on an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded project led by Bashir alongside Dr Daniele Rossi, Dr Vasileios Tenentes, Co-Investigator Dr Saqib Khursheed from the University of Liverpool and industrial partner ARM Ltd. The research, which was first published in the prestigious IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems, focused on developing new fault models, methods, circuits and their validation to quantify and improve the resilience and testability of energy-efficient digital hardware.

As part of the project, the research team examined how bias temperature instability (BTI) – a form of transistor aging – could modify components’ characteristics in a positive manner. Thanks to advanced simulations, the project discovered that transistors consumed less power as BTI took effect.

The findings lead researchers to theorise that the BTI aging could be even greater in future generations of chips. “The positive argument is that the longer these devices are used the better the battery life,” Bashir told IEEE Spectrum. “Whether people are prepared to use devices for that long a time is questionable.”

The University’s Department of Electronics and Computer Science is currently contributing to 28 EPSRC grants worth a combined value of over £33m.

Bashir added: “It is great to see our global electronics research leading the conversation in such a prestigious international magazine. I look forward to seeing many more articles showcasing impactful University research in IEEE Spectrum and other renowned publications well into the future.”

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