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Consortium develops chips that "refuse to fail"

Posted: 02 Aug 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Semiconductor Research  SRC  semiconductor  National Science Foundation  University of Michigan 

Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC), a university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies, recently announced the development of chips that "refuse to fail."

Joint research by SRC, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the University of Michigan will focus on analysis of the future landscape of hard silicon failures and their impact on non-trivial designs.

"In this project, we'll go much further than before by designing chips that can diagnose when components wear out and heal themselves on the fly," said Sankar Basu, programme director at NSF. "The bolstering of scientific underpinnings of computing is extremely important to the NSF. This issue of ensuring reliability is critical to the future of high-performance computing for even the most aggressive of applications."

Current industry efforts to make chips more reliable, through redundancy and other traditional means, involve both higher costs and the sacrifice of the speed that consumers have come to expect in nearly all electronics. In comparison, said SRC, our recent announcement of collaborative research are projected to provide defect-tolerant designs that will increase product lifetime through components that take longer to fail.

"The aim is for chips that won't fail. That will be a first for the industry. The ramifications of increasing the reliability of the microprocessor in computing applications like planes, trains and automobiles is something we get very excited about," said William Joyner, SRC's director of Computer-Aided Design and Test for SRC's Global Research Collaboration unit. "To continue the performance pace that billions of people have come to expect, we need more than technology advances. Sustained performance improvements require a critical coupling between technology and design."

The collaborative research will further entail the development of both straight-forward and intuitive silicon-failure models, and a fast, accurate reliability modelling infrastructure, that allow designers to better understand the reliable system design space and to evaluate the robustness of potential solutions.

"The solution is not to build flawless chips, but architectures that can survive defects," commented Dr. Todd Austin, associate professor of electrical engineering at University of Michigan.

Benefits of the research will serve chipmakers and end-users for communications, computing, aeronautics and aerospace applications, medical devices, automotive and consumer electronics, and a wide range of other applications that are dependent on silicon's correct performance.

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