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Blog Review – Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Monday, September 11th, 2017

We have found ways to tune up the testbench from Cadence; a vision of smart cities from BDTI; the Crotian EV market; and for Mentor and Maxim, it’s competition time!

Introducing the idea of an east European country innovating in automotive design, Alyssa, Dassault Systemes, profiles Rimac Automobili, Croatia, and its Concept_One electric vehicle. The company profile and link with 3DExperience makes an interesting read.

Hoping to change perspectives on testbench practises, the Xteam, Cadence Design Systems, looks into how test time can be reduced for modern SoCs using its Perspec tool.

Trying to put a silver lining on the cloud of the end of the summer, rkasnick, Mentor Graphics, has details of the Digi-Key Electronics Back2School contest (limited to US and Canada students). The offer of free, perpetual license of PADS MakerPro design software is not to be sniffed at, and there are other prizes for young maker engineers.

The news behind the partnership deal with SiFive, to bring embedded analytics to more RISC-V application, are given by Rupert Baines, UltraSoC. More than just a new member of the DesignShare program, could this latest partnership be indicative of a shift happening in the industry for a more democratized design methodology?

It makes sense – time saved at the design stage can translate to more time for interests and hobbies. After a rather clumsy boast about frequent flyer miles nanoMan, Maxim Integrated introduces the EE-Sim Power Designer Challenge. Crossword buffs should give it a go, there’s a chance to win a Garmin fēnix 5 watch.

Clutching his smartphones, Jeff Bier, BDTI, considers embedded vision for smart cities of the future. His ideas for smart cities are not revolutionary, but he concisely identifies the key technologies needed to make computer vision-based systems an opportunity not to be missed.

An insight into what may be in store for 5G is reported on by John Blyler, Chip Design. His report on the Imec Technology Forum Southeast Asia in Singapore, looks at two products developed by imec and the target market of below 60GHz smartphones.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Blog Review – Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 27th, 2016

To paraphrase Jane Austen, “Who could ever tire of digital?” Larry Hardesty, MIT, reports on how Martin Rinard was and turned to analog, creating an analog compiler could help enable simulation of whole organs and even organisms.

An interesting interview with Ray Alderman, Chairman of the Board of VITA by Chris A. Ciufo, Embedded Systems Engineering, probes about thriving companies, explores what is in the ascendency and how kitty litter can be a commercial lesson to us all.

The next phase for Bluetooth has been announced. Prithi Ramakrishnan, ARM looks at what the Bluetooth 5G standard will bring, and includes a link to a video demo.

Looking out for open source libraries, Robert Vamosi, Synopsys, looks at the battle for protection and what needs to be in an engineer’s arsenal.

Revealing the industry’s worst kept secret, Paul McLellan, Cadence, reports on imec and the thoughts of An Steegen, who is in charge of process technology at imec and thoughts of what is next for shrinking nodes.

Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Is Hardware Really That Much Different From Software?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

When can hardware be considered as software? Are software flows less complex? Why are hardware tools less up-to-date? Experts from ARM, Jama Software and Imec propose the answers.

By John Blyler, Editorial Director

HiResThe Internet-of-Things will bring hardware and software designers into closer collaboration than every before. Understanding the working differences between both technical domains in terms of design approaches and terminology will be the first step in harmonizing the relationships between these occasionally contentious camps. What are the these differences in hardware and software design approaches? To answer that question, I talked with the technical experts including Harmke De Groot, Program Director Ultra-Low Power Technologies at Imec; Jonathan Austin, Senior Software Engineer at ARM; and Eric Nguyen, Director of Business Intelligence at Jama Software; . What follows is a portion of their responses. — JB

Read the complete article at: JB Circuit

Research Review – Tues. June 10 2014

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Imec and Samsung invest in open reference sensor module; straight from the 3D heart; automotive semiconductor market accelerates; IoT becomes a reality. By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Imec and Samsung Electronics are collaborating, the former contributing its Body Area Networks (BANs) technology, with Samsung’s Simband platform, which includes an open reference sensor module, integrating advanced sensing technologies from imec. Part of the Samsung digital health initiative, the sensor array can be used to develop the next generation of wearable health sensors.

Dassault Systèmes has presented the world’s first 3D realistic simulation model, based on its 3DExperience platform, of a whole human heart. It was developed with a team of cardiac experts as part of the Living Heart Project, to diagnose, treat and prevent heart conditions through personalised, 3D virtual models.

It’s full throttle for growth in the automotive semiconductor industry, says a report from Strategy Analytics. The Automotive Electronics Semiconductor Demand Forecast 2012 to 2021 predicts a strong growth of 5% CAGR over the next seven years, fuelled by green, safe, connected vehicles.

To some it’s a buzzword, but to IDC, the IoT (Internet of Things) is becoming a reality, with a worldwide market forecast predicted to exceed $7trillion by 2020. Research indicates that a transformation is underway whereby the global market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9trillion in 2013 to $7.1trillion in 2020. The IoT is expected to find traction in homes, cars, and in businesses.

Research Review – April 22, 2014

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Plastic replaces glass in x-ray detector; Quantum switches advance Internet backbone; Smart home report; Communication drives ICs sales.

An X-ray detector produced on a plastic substrate has been demonstrated by researchers from Holst Centre and Imec as being capable of medical-grade performance. It delivered high-resolution, dynamic images at 25 frame/s and 200 pixels/inch with high contrast using medical-level X-ray doses. The project presents a viable alternative to digital images, which are faster than analog systems and use less radiation, without using heavy, fragile, glass substrates.

Quantum switches that can be turned on and off using a single photon could be networked via fiber optic cables to form a quantum Internet backbone. The switches, built from single atoms, can open or close the flow of photons, depending on its state.
Harvard University Professor of Physics, Mikhail Lukin led the team, whose research is published in Nature, describes how the switches could build a quantum computer or a secure communications network.

A second edition of Juniper’s report on Smart Home Ecosystems analyses the Internet of Things, looking at devices in the home that do not traditionally communicate with the Internet, the drivers and challenges in the chain, how to add impetus to the Smart Home and how to maximize revenue potential.
17, 2014

Communications will be the driver for IC sales in most geographical regions, predicts a report from IC Insights. IC Market Drivers, A Study of Emerging and Major End-Use Applications Fueling Demand for Integrated Circuits reports communications will surpass computer sales as the largest system application for ICs for the first time this year in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions, with computer systems forecast to remain the largest end-use application for IC sales in Japan. It also notes that a key driver for IC sales in Europe, accounting for nearly 25% of sales in Europe, is the automotive sector.

Research Review – April 08 2014

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Bravo! AWR helps students; looks familiar?– algorithm adjusts the view; New material lets the light in; imec and Rohm collaborate on low power radio components.
By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Electronic engineering students at Italy’s Sapienza University of Rome are led by associate professor, Dr. Stefano Pisa, who uses AWR’s Microwave Office circuit design software and graduate research to teach layout and design. It was also used in work to present a circuit model to analyze and design radars to remotely monitor breathing.

Computers are smart, but are not able to re-orientate using buildings as reference points, when the route is disrupted – until now. An algorithm has been developed by MIT researchers Julian Straub, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, John Fisher, a senior research scientist in its Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, John Leonard, a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering, Oren Freifeld and Guy Rosman, both post doctorates in Fisher’s Sensing, Learning, and Inference Group, that could make this task easier.
At the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, the researcher will present the algorithm which identifies 3D scenes and simplifies understanding scenes for robots navigating new terroritory.

Described as a potential building block for the next generation of inexpensive electrical devices, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), a transition metal dichalcogenide material, is detailed in research by Nestor Perea-Lopez (lead author), from The Pennsylvania State University. The thin film, as little as three atoms in thickness can convert photons into electrons which is delivered to a photosensor in two wavelengths by a laser.
Perea-Lopez speculates on the material’s potential for integration “with metals like graphene, with insulators such as boron nitride and semiconductors like MoS2 to create the next generation of devices”.

Researchers from Rohm Semiconductor will collaborate with nanoelectronics research center, imec, to develop ultra-low power critical radio components. The intent is to combine architectures, low power design IP and efficient low power circuits to develop low power RF components that comply with wireless standards, such as Bluetooth Low Energy and ZigBee by integrating a co-developed PLL (Phase Lock Loop) for use in wireless sensor networks.

Research Review – March 25, 2014

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Dimension shift; solar efficiency soars; Sensors and measuring look positive; nanowires make their mark

A new semiconductor allows 3D crystals for study; fullerene-free organic photovoltaic
(OPV) multi-layer stacks boost efficiency; Berlin’s AMA Association – sensing good things in industry exports; nanoscale fingerprints defy fraud. By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor.

Fullerene-free organic photovoltaic (OPV) multi-layer stacks have been developed by imec and claim a record conversion efficiency of 8.4%, making OPV cells a promising alternative to donor-fullerene organic solar cells.
The research team proposes a three-layer stack of two fullerene-free acceptors and a donor, arranged as discrete heterojunctions. As well as exciton dissociation at the central donor-acceptor interface, the excitons generated in the outer acceptor layer are transferred to the central acceptor, and dissociated at the donor interface, resulting in a quantum efficiency above 75% between 400 and 720nm. With an open-circuit voltage close to 1V, the 8.4 conversion efficiency figure is achieved.

Research conducted by the German-based AMA Association for Sensors and Measurement (AMA), among its members, showed a positive view of 2013 and optimistic hopes for 2014.
The annual revenue of the sensor industry shows a growth of 3%, compared with the previous year. The survey also showed the generally small and medium-sized enterprises invest 10% of their revenue in research and development.
Members’ export quota stabilized at 40% overall, with exports to other European countries rising by 3% to 25%, with the export quota to countries outside Europe dropping by 2% to 17%.
The sensor and measuring industry is investing and has augmented investments last year by an additional three percent. For the current business year 2014, AMA members reckon with an increase in investments of eight percent. This development also affects a growing demand for personnel, which rose by two percent last year.
The AMA members predict a growth in revenue of 7% for this year and a slight rise in the export quota. It also reports that sensor and measuring technology is investing heavily in research and development and counting with a further increase in personnel.

A series of fingerprint patterns with various number densities of dye-coated AgNWs.Anti-counterfeit, nanoscale fingerprints generated by randomly distributed nanowires have resulted in unique barcodes that would impractical to attempt to replicate or counterfeit.
Jangbae Kim, Je Moon Yun, Jongwook Jung Jin-Baek Kim from KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), and Hyunjoon Song and Hyotcherl Ihee from KAIST and IBS (Institute for Basic Science) Center for Nanomaterials and Chemical Reactions, report that the silver nanowires coated with fluorescent dyes, cast onto the surface of transparent PET film, produce non-repeatable patterns characterized by the random location of the nanowires and their fluorescent colors. These unique barcodes makes counterfeiting such a pattern impractical and expensive; the cost of replicating it would be higher than the value of the typical target item being protected. The patterns can be authenticate, using an optical microscope.

Nano-beam electron diffraction pattern of rhenium disulfide with a zoom-in insert image reveals a quasi-hexagonal reflection pattern.Paving the way for 2D electronic applications with a 3D material, the discovery of a new semiconductor, rhenium disulfide by Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, could also make it possible to study 2D physics with 3D crystals, created using rhenium disulfide.
Rhenium disulfide, unlike molybdenum disulfide and other dichalcogenides, behaves electronically as if it were a 2D monolayer even as a 3D bulk material. Junqiao Wu, a physicist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, explained that its photoluminescence intensity increases while its Raman spectrum is unchanged, even with an increasing numbers of layers, ideal for probing 2D excitonic and lattice physics, without preparing large area, single crystal monolayers.

Research roundup – Dec. 03

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Compound confounds the current flow
When is an insulator, not an insulator? Or when is a conductor not a conductor? When it’s a topological insulator (TI). The Tokyo Institute of Technology, has developed a new compound from bismuth, tellurium and chlorine (BiTeCl) that is inversion asymmetric, i.e. it has different electronic states, and different polarities, on each crystal surface.
A crystal grown in the lab was split crystal, resulting in two surfaces – one Te and one Cl. When the research team observed the electronic structures using spectroscopy, they noticed the top and bottom crystal surfaces have opposite charge carriers, leading to polarization. The TI can be used as a diode, allowing current flow in only one direction, yet it also exhibits pyroelectric capabilities, generating a temporary voltage when heated or cooled.
Research continues but team hopes to discover a topological superconductor whose surface can host Majorana fermions (particles which are their own anti-particles), to develop topological quantum computing.

Shape-memory effect for nanotechnology

A recoverable phase transformation in a bismuth ferrite film introduced by an applied electric field. The dashed blue line shows the relocation of the phase boundaries.

Shape-memory, where a solid material ‘remembers’ and recovers its original shape involves heating. With nano-scale technology, this can cause instability through fatigue, micro-cracking or oxidation. A research team at Berkeley Lab has discovered a way to introduce a recoverable strain into bismuth ferrite of up to 14 per cent on the nanoscale, larger than any shape-memory effect observed in a metal. “By achieving the shape-memory effect in an oxide material rather than a metal alloy, we eliminate the surface issues and enable integration with microelectronics,” says Jinxing Zhang, a post-doctorate for this study under Berkeley’s Ramamoorthy Ramesh. This opens up possibilities for medical products as well as actuators in smart materials and in MEMS.

Memory boost for semiconductor market
There is evidence of a bounce-back effect in the semiconductor market and it is attributed to the memory sector. IHS has published Semiconductor Value Chain Service which estimates that global semiconductor sales are up nearly five per cent in 2013, at $317.9 billion, compared to 2012 ($302.9 billion). The analyst reports that growth is being driven by DRAM (dynamic random access memory) and NAND flash memory, which are expected to rise by 35 and 27.7 per cent respectively, in 2013. The demand is attributed to the use of both memory types in smartphones and tablets. Head of electronics and semiconductor research at IHS, Dale Ford went as far as to say: “without these two high-performing product segments, the semiconductor industry would attain zero growth this year”.

Simplified solar cell process is effective
Imec believes it has taken a significant step towards reducing the cost of ownership of PERC (passivated emitter rear cell) silicon solar cells. It has produced a 156x156mm² area i-PERC-type silicon solar cells using a processing sequence based on laser doping from a thin ALD (atomic layer deposited) aluminum oxide (Al2O3) layer to realize the local aluminum back surface field and Ni/Cu plating to form the front contact. The research project reports that the cells achieved average conversion efficiencies of 20.2 per cent.
The new laser doping processing sequence eliminates the necessity of a firing step to create the local BSF in i-PERC solar cells and provides low temperature metallization for i-PERC cells. Lower temperatures prevent passivation degradation of the rear Al2O3 layer, as well as optical degradation of the rear dielectric/metal stack.
Missing out a step is not a handicap – the thin ALD Al2O3 acts as passivation layer and doping source, while laser processing enables the contact patterning and the local BSF formation in one step.

Research Roundup – Nov. 19

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

By Caroline Hayes, Senior Editor

Project creates radar sensor to track a tumor in cancer radiotherapy

A project by Texas Tech University to inspire engineering students to choose microwave engineering saw the RF and Analog Research Group working with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) on research for high sensitivity radar for biomedical applications, specifically tumor tracking in cancer radiotherapy.
Graduate students, led by Dr. Changzhi Li and in partnership with NSF and CPRIT, developed a smart DC-coupled radar sensor to track the tumor location and control the radiation beam. This Smart Radar, is non-invasive, has no side effects or discomfort, and links directly to chest motion.
AWR partnered with parent company National Instruments to provide hardware, software, and mentoring for a course that challenged students to design, lay out, and simulate the Smart Radar tumor tracking radar system using the AWR Design Environment. The students then created a test bench for the system within NI’s LabVIEW and took measurements with the final prototype with NI PXI RF instruments.

Crystal stores energy in persistent photoconductivity at room temperature

Not tidying can have its rewards. Last year, Washington State University student, Marianne Tarun discovered that a strontium titanate crystal, left out in the lab and exposed to light had increased its conductivity by 400 times. The levels occurred at room temperature and lasted several days after the light was turned off.
This persistent photoconductivity increased when the crystal was exposed to violet light. Exposure, reports Tarun, excited the electrons, causing them to move and create electrical conductivity.
Matthew McCluskey, a physics professor working with Tarun, said there is potential to use this type of conductivity to store masses of digital information, going beyond that available with computer memory stored in the silicon.

DOE Lawrence Berkeley Lab tease out superconductor chain

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have worked with a model compound to illuminate the origins of the so-called “stripe phase” in which electrons become concentrated in stripes throughout a material, and which appears to be linked to superconductivity.
“We’re trying to understand nanoscale order and how that determines material properties such as superconductivity,” said physicist, Robert Kaindl, Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division. “Using ultrafast optical techniques, we are able to observe how charge stripes start to form on a time scale of hundreds of femtoseconds.”
Using LSNO (strontium-doped lanthanum nickelate), which has essential similarities to the cuprates (an important class of high-temperature superconductors), but lacks superconductivity, allowed the team to focus on understanding just the stripe phase seen in all high-temperature superconductors near the superconducting transition temperature.

Sensor array records animal neural activity

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and University College London have committed 4.2 million Euro ($5.5 million) in R&D collaboration contracting with nano research center, imec, to develop and manufacture a state-of-the-art sensor array for recording neural activity in animal brains.
The array will advance current neural probe technology used to detect extracellular electrical activity in the brain and incorporate recording electrodes at a much higher density and provide an order of magnitude better performance than existing technology, says the research institute.
The arrays have the potential to enable transformational neurobiology experiments and improve understanding of how neurons in the brain work together to process information and control behavior, such as how sensory information, visual images in the eye or whisker touches, flows into and between brain regions, and is processed by the cortex.
The 38-month project is expected to yield devices to become widely available in late 2016.

WEEK IN REVIEW: October 3 2013

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Caroline Hayes

Fujifilm and imec have developed photoresist technology for organic semiconductors that enables submicron patterning on large substrates, without damage to the organic materials. It could prove to be a cost-effective alternative to current methods, i.e. shadow masking and inkjet printing, which have not proved suitable for high resolution patterns on large substrates. Photolithography is successfully used in patterning silicon semiconductors, but the photoresist dissolves the organic semiconductor material during processing. OPDs (organic photo detectors) were produced at sizes down to 200µm x 200µm without degradation. OLED (organic light emitting diodes) were also produced, at a pitch of 20µm and were found to emit uniform light.

Synopsys released a new TLM (transaction level model) subsystem flow and eclipse IDE (integrated development environment) integration speed Virtualizer Development Kit. The Virtualizer 13.06 enables and disables components of the design to allow users to optimize simulation performance during software debug.

Celebration for Cadence Design Systems as it accepted not one but three Partner of the Year awards from TSMC at this month’s Open Innovation Platform forum. They were for the Analog/Mixed-Signal IP, the 16nm FinFET Design Infrastructure, and Joint Delivery of 3D-IC Design Solution categories.

NAND flash devices are looking beyond conventional semiconductor manufacturing techniques, reports IHS. Nearly two thirds (65.2%) of all NAND memory chips shipped worldwide by 2017, will be produced using 3D processes, according to a Flash Dynamics brief. At present, it is less than 1%. Time is running out for planar semiconductor technology capacity, leaving 3D manufacturing the answer to building higher densities NAND products.

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