Special focus: chip design

   

Chip designers are struggling with aligning the critical dimensions of each new manufacturing process with an ever-smaller fraction of the wavelength of the light used to define them.

 

Also, major chip foundries are ramping up production on 28nm processes - making electronic devices with features so small they are stretching the capabilities of the equipment used to draw them to breaking point.

 

Chipmakers are having to apply an increasingly mindboggling array of optical trickery. E&T monitors this trend.

 

Selected chip-design news

ARM moves to open-source compiler

ARM moves to open-source compiler

Microprocessor-design company ARM has decided to move to an open-source compiler for the latest release of its software development tools, moving away from its own technology.

Raytheon chooses harder option for new fab

Raytheon chooses harder option for new fab

Raytheon UK has opened the UK’s first fab able to make chips from the ultrahard material silicon carbide instead of standard silicon, thus aiming to provide devices that can withstand the heat inside jet engines and other harsh environments.

Intel's outlook dashes hopes for PC recovery

Intel's outlook dashes hopes for PC recovery

Intel's weak outlook for fourth-quarter revenue and margins dispelled lingering hopes for a revival in PC demand.

Amazon in talks to buy Texas Instruments' mobile chip arm

Amazon in talks to buy Texas Instruments' mobile chip arm

Amazon, the world's largest Internet retailer, is in advanced talks to buy the mobile chip business of Texas Instruments.

Silicon chip breakthrough by scientists

Silicon chip breakthrough by scientists

Silicon chips that exploit the properties of quantum physics could be common components in laptops and smartphones within a few years, say scientists.

Chipmaker ARM beats industry expectations

Chipmaker ARM beats industry expectations

ARM beat market expectations for the second quarter after demand for its low-power chips in smartphones outstripped the industry.

Big chipmakers line up for 450mm wafers

Intel, Samsung Electronics and TSMC have agreed to start working on a move to use 450mm wafers, with the transition scheduled to start in 2012.

IBM and partners produce 32nm high-k test wafers

IBM, working with its semiconductor production partners, claims to have produced wafers on an prototype 32nm process that use a high-k/metal-gate stack.

OSCI aims for June with TLM 2.0 release

The Open SystemC Initiative (OSCI) is working to have the final version of the second major release of the transaction-level modelling (TLM) standard ready in time for the Design Automation Conference (DAC) in June.

Simulations point to nanotube future

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created models to determine whether it is worth pursuing carbon nanotubes as replacements for copper wiring in chip designs.

Graphene gets noise treatment

IBM researchers have stumbled across a possible solution to one of the biggest obstacles to the use of graphene as a substitute for silicon in future electronic devices. They have developed a way to suppress the noise that would otherwise render nanoscale graphene transistors useless.

Selected chip-design features

Analysis: Scotland’s silicon survivors

Analysis: Scotland’s silicon survivors

During the 1990s, Scotland’s Silicon Glen looked as though it could rival other world centres for chipmaking. It could not compete with California’s Silicon Valley itself but the country looked an attractive choice to a number of Far Eastern technology companies who promised to build and expand plants there.

WAN - chipping away at long-distance data

WAN - chipping away at long-distance data

Wide-area network optimisers use smart ways to gain more value from WAN links through new ICs.

Intel and Samsung hit the 22nm accelerator

Intel and Samsung hit the 22nm accelerator

The world's largest chipmakers are gambling heavily on manufacturing in an attempt to take advantage of their market muscle.

Computing components: turning architectures inside-out

Computing components: turning architectures inside-out

We're all fed-up with watching the 'Please wait' icon as our data shunts backwards and forwards from memory to processor... but could the waiting time be reduced now that memory technology innovation is providing the key to a new, more energy-efficient way of handling data?

Smartphones control the semiconductor business

Smartphones control the semiconductor business

The highly absorbent smartphone is gaining a controlling interest in how the electronics industry is evolving, as technology developed for it seeps increasingly into other markets.

Processors go slow to save energy

Processors go slow to save energy

Processors are working too hard and draining the battery too fast, so could they learn some lessons in energy conservation from the sagacious sloth?

450mm dilemma for chipmakers

450mm dilemma for chipmakers

Chipmakers want to cut costs by moving to pizza-sized wafers, but could it prove to be an expensive mistake?

Power concerns usher in new generation of work-shy processors

Power concerns usher in new generation of work-shy processors

The pressure to deliver longer battery life in mobile handsets and tablets is forcing chipmakers to put spare processor cores onto their devices with the intention of using their signature, power-hungry cores only on an occasional basis.

Making chips fit to print

Making chips fit to print

Depositing the features on semiconductors is no easy task, and existing tools have reached their limit, says E&T.

Chip designs: cheaper options

How can you get chips onto the market when you don't have an iPhone budget?

Design freedom

Increasing the regularity of chip designs may reduce problems in manufacturing.

Who wants SOI sauce?

At the beginning of October, a group of chipmakers and tools suppliers formed a consortium to try to take the technology of silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chips out of the realm of high-end processors into the mainstream.

Uncertain future

Sani Nassif, the man in charge of tools and technologies at IBM Microelectronics, has a way of putting into perspective the looming problem for chip designers.

Into the fast lane

Cost pressures are forcing designers to put more analogue circuitry onto bleeding-edge silicon.

Quantum of solace

Circuit designers are turning into digital techniques to improve analogue performance on submicron processes.

The machinations of the mind

The machinations of the mind

Modelling the mind may provide a radical new direction in computer design.

Farewell to flatland

Farewell to flatland

Chipmakers are reaching the limits with electronic circuits - the only way is up.

Parallel pain

Developers have to look at new ways of coding to take advantage of multicore processing.

The many lives of Moore's Law

The many lives of Moore's Law

Moore's Law has become practically synonymous with chipmaking: but does it square with reality?

A test of mettle

Only months after 45nm started rolling, the foundries are vying for control of the 32nm generation.

Model workers

Modelling hardware using virtual platforms is becoming mainstream - so now attention is turning to the speed of simulation.

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