The University of Southampton

Funding to revolutionise electronics design

Published: 9 May 2006

A grant awarded this month will use e-Science and Grid technology to keep Europe at the forefront of nano-electronics.

The University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS) is one of the partners in a £5.3M ($9.1M) project funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in collaboration with leading design houses, chip manufacturers and Electronics Computer Aided Design (ECAD) vendors.

The project, which brings together leading semiconductor device, circuit and system experts from academia and industry and e-Scientists with strong grid expertise, will address some of the major challenges facing Nano-CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) design, the discipline which provides silicon chips and transistors which power devices such as computers and mobile phones.

Nano-CMOS design concentrates on the development of ever smaller silicon chips requiring less power and using only one transistor. In order to make the development of such chips a reality, strong links must be established between circuit design, system design and fundamental device technology to allow circuits and systems to accommodate the individual behaviour of every transistor on a chip.

Adjusting for new device architectures and device variability will add significant complexity to the design process, requiring the orchestration of a broad spectrum of design tools by geographically distributed teams of device experts, circuit and system designers.

‘The fundamental challenges that the semiconductor industry faces, at both technology and device level, will affect the design of future integrated circuits and systems,’ said ECS Professor Mark Zwolinski. ‘The increasing device variability demands revolutionary changes in the way that future integrated circuits and systems are designed and by working together we can achieve this, but only by embedding e-Science technology and know-how across the whole nano-CMOS electronics design process and revolutionising the way in which these disparate groups currently work.’

The other University partners in this project include Glasgow, Manchester, York and Edinburgh.

The e-Science and Grid technology will be provided by the National e-Science Centre run jointly by Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities and the e-Science North-West Centre at Manchester University.

The industrial partners include ARM and Wolfson Microelectronics (two of the largest UK fabless chip design companies), Synopsys (the world leader in design software) and Freescale, National Semiconductors and Fujtsu (leading semiconductor chip manufacturers). The project also received the support of the National Microelectronics Institute, the Trade Association for UK microelectronics

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