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Letting Architects Take the Heat

We’re used to seeing a lot more about power and thermal modeling and analysis these days. So perhaps it’s no surprise to see another company making a thermal modeling announcement.

But is Docea’s thermal modeling tool just more of the same? Actually, by their claim, no; it’s unique. And that’s because it works at the architectural level.

Most thermal analysis tools work with finite element analysis or compact thermal models, calculating in detail how much heat there is and where it’s going. Those … Read More → "Letting Architects Take the Heat"

The 20-nm Drumbeat

A few weeks back we took a look at Cadence’s collaboration with Samsung in readying 28-nm technologies, with 20 nm on the way. Turns out, Samsung has been busy… Mentor has subsequently announced 20-nm DFM capabilities developed with and delivered to Samsung. The focus as announced was on identifying hot spots, pattern-matching layout checks, and yield monitoring.

Meanwhile, Cadence also announced their Encounter improvements for handling the kinds of mammoth designs … Read More → "The 20-nm Drumbeat"

Synthesizing TLM Models

Architectural exploration and design implementation all too often are two separate tasks implemented by two completely separate groups. Once a high-level TLM model has been tested and approved, it goes on the shelf while a designer starts from scratch to generate a synthesizable design.

While this may sound simply wasteful, things aren’t so simple. TLM models are abstract, using busses and transactions. An RTL design has to specific signals at the individual level – the TLM model doesn’t have that, so the TLM model tends not to be particularly useful as a starting … Read More → "Synthesizing TLM Models"

Inorganic n-Type Thin-Film Transistors

We’ve seen before that organic approaches to transistors have focused on p-type transistors. While n-type materials have become more available, organic CMOS still isn’t widespread.

In an ISSCC paper, imec made reference to an inorganic thin-film transistor (TFT) that makes use of metal oxide (I’m tempted to call these MOxFETs). We’ll have more on that story in another posting; before getting into that, however, I wanted to learn more about exactly what these MOxFETs are.

It turns out that metal-oxide TFTs have been worked on for some … Read More → "Inorganic n-Type Thin-Film Transistors"

What Comes After Silicon?

It’s the perennial question (or one of them): how long can silicon last?

Without giving dates, imec’s Rudy Lauwereins opined that silicon will be replaced by GaAs and by germanium.

This is like back to the future in two different ways. Germanium was the semiconductor of choice before silicon was taken up – back when few were actually making a choice. Meanwhile, GaAs was supposed to take over many years ago, and silicon refused to yield its premier position.

One of the things that gives silicon an edge is … Read More → "What Comes After Silicon?"

A Conference Presentation Figure of Merit

In this business, I end up going to a lot of conferences on a lot of different topics. Now, I was trained as an engineer and have worked closely with technology for a long time. But it’s also been many years since I was a practicing engineer. And it’s been even longer – college, mostly – since I had to do much of anything with analog circuits or transistor device physics or any of dozens of specialized topics that come together to make our industry possible. And no, Mom, after all these years, I Read More → "A Conference Presentation Figure of Merit"

A Self-Healing Radio on a Chip

Continuing with the occasional note about interesting ISSCC presentations, there was an interesting talk about a self-healing radio-on-a-chip – in fact, probably the best actual presentation I’ve ever seen at ISSCC. The topic seems aligned with a budding tendency of radio systems to correct themselves dynamically while in use.

In this case, a number of “knobs” were built into the radio circuitry, and the device was instrumented with the ability to create various test tones, sensors to detect the … Read More → "A Self-Healing Radio on a Chip"

Third-Generation Debugger

SpringSoft just announced the next major version of their popular Verdi debug tool. Calling it Verdi3, they say they’ve done some major upgrades in three areas: the way users work with the tool; the way the tool can interact with other tools; and the engines under the hood.

The first of those three is “simply” a productivity and ease-of-use issue. They redid the GUI, with a couple effects. The first is that what used to be individual windows that you had to click back and forth between are now tiles that … Read More → "Third-Generation Debugger"

New lower-power transceivers

As the number of sensors and autonomous units of various flavors continues to increase, the need for them to communicate with as little power as possible continues to grow. To date, those in search of the lowest power have had to turn to proprietary communication protocols, with the obvious downside being that they’re proprietary.

Imec, in collaboration with Panasonic, recently announced that they’ve reduced the power in standard protocols like Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy, and the scheme used for body area networks (BANs) by a factor of 3 to 5, bringing energy use down to 2.7 … Read More → "New lower-power transceivers"

Taking the Temperature

Three of this year’s ISSCC’s sensor papers related to temperature sensors, although with different approaches and goals.

The first of them addresses the needs of tough environments such as those that automotive and military applications require. Their main motivator was the fact that, at high temperatures, traditional on-chip bipolar junction transistor (BJT) temperature sensors become much less accurate, so designers end up opting for off-chip thermistors and such.

So their idea was not to measure temperature through transistor characteristics, but rather to measure the thermal diffusivity – how fast heat travels, … Read More → "Taking the Temperature"

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