A recently completed EU project developed better tools for
integrated microcircuit design; achieved some world firsts in
performance analysis and now may even spin off a new company to
commercialise some of its new technologies.
(PRWEB) September 8, 2005 -- The DEMAND project wanted to develop
a reliable and cost-effective design process for ‘smart power’
integrated circuits. This type of microchip can integrate a wide
variety of functions into one piece of silicon. The advantage is
lower-cost and increased reliability.
It developed a design
process specifically intended to improve the robustness and
reliability of integrated circuits for the automotive
Modern cars are typically riddled with
microelectronics, used to control everything from the mirrors to
combustion. Currently the industry's drive is towards the increase
of additional electrical functions and the integration of these in a
smaller number of chips.
The trade-off, however, is an
increasingly expensive chip design process. The sector demands
robust chips that can withstand suddenly occurring not wanted high
energetic electric pulses. These pulses can mean a massive increase
in electrical current and a brief, but massive, rise in temperature
within the chip's circuits. Temperatures sometimes reach up to 1000
degrees centigrade for a few hundreds of nanoseconds. This can
either disturb the chip function or physically destroy the
"These stresses can occur either when the car is in
operation, or even during manufacturing," says Dr Dionyz Pogany of
the Institute for Solid State Electronics at the Vienna University
of Technology, one of the DEMAND partners.
problem is encountered in cars during the switching of the different
electrical machines or relays within the car, or an electrostatic
discharge. This can destroy the delicate circuitry in the car's
It's hard to imagine that a simple effect
like a static shock, experienced regularly by car users, could cause
so much damage. But microchips, and particularly complex, integrated
chips, are very small, and thus delicate. The effects of a discharge
rise exponentially as a result.
The DEMAND team scored an
exceptional coup by developing a new type of chip analysis system.
The system verified the predictions of the improved
This analysis, called Transient Interferometric
Mapping (TIM), uses infrared interferometry to reveal exactly what
is happening on a chip when it receives a high current pulse. The
simulation predicted the effects of stress while TIM revealed
whether it actually occurred. The strength of this measurement
technique is that for the first time the occurrence of moving
current filaments could be experimentally proven.
is a detailed, non-invasive and non-destructive record of what
exactly is happening on a chip when a high energetic pulse hits.
DEMAND researchers were able to tell what problems occurred on the
chip and that revealed what remedies were required to make them more
robust. As a result, they helped refine the simulation models.
"In the past it was not possible to observe exactly what is
happening in the chip when it receives this type of stress,” says
Pogany. “TIM also has the ability to take a single snap-shot of the
internal dynamics of the chip, another improvement achieved by the
This is invaluable information for designers,
because they can see exactly what happens to the chip, what systems
fail, what systems survive, and why. It provides them with a
blueprint to refine the device.
The combination of
understanding the destructive mechanisms of energetic pulses,
improving device simulation, particularly at temperature levels that
have never been reached before, and then observing the impact of
electrical or thermal stress on the device, means new chips can be
developed at enormously reduced cost. Reliability will be improved.
And opportunities to create new devices now exist.
now we will certainly work with anyone who wants to use our TIM
system to help develop their microchips, but we have not yet decided
if it is feasible to launch a spin-off company," says Prof Erich
Gornik, who was responsible for the DEMAND project at TU Vienna.
"That is a definite possibility. A lot of people in the industry are
excited by what our system can do to improve chip
"In the meantime we want to develop more advanced
models of our TIM technology. We want to make it more robust, to be
able to sell it to failure analysis departments in semiconductor
companies. Right now the TIM tool needs a lot a maintenance, and we
hope to lower the maintenance required to make it more attractive
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