EU partnership launches research project on cooling semiconductors

seventhframeworkprogrammeCatania, Italy — A European partnership, consisting of semiconductor manufacturers, electronic design automation (EDA) suppliers, research institutions and universities, has launched a three-year project, looking at the impact of thermal effects on electronic circuits and systems.

The EU-funded research project, “THERMINATOR — Modeling, Control and Management of Thermal Effects in Electronic Circuits of the Future,” is aimed at keeping Europe’s semiconductor and electronics equipment companies in a strong, competitive position in areas such as automotive systems and factory automation where semiconductors often have to work in harsh environments with temperatures in excess of 100°C.

Thermal effects have been an important factor in determining the performance, cost and reliability of both the device as well as the end application, according to the partnership, citing higher costs for packages that can sustain higher temperatures as well as heat sinks and cooling systems. In addition, high operating temperatures tend to cause performance degradation or even malfunctioning of circuits and components, thus reducing the reliability of the end application.

As a result, models that predict the thermal characteristics of semiconductor devices are integrated into EDA software that chip manufacturers use to design their devices. However, these existing design tools are not sufficient in terms of being able to handle the new materials and extremely small structures that will be required in future applications and technologies where heat/power management is of critical importance, according to the partnership.

The three goals of the project include developing innovative thermal models, usable at different levels of abstraction, and to interface/integrate them into existing simulation and design frameworks; creating new thermal-aware design solutions, customized for the different technologies and application domains of interest, and enhancing existing EDA solutions via thermal-aware add-on tools that will enable designers to address temperature issues more effectively using their existing design flows.

The total cost of the project is €11 million (about $14.8 million), part of which will be contributed by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The partners include:
— STMicroelectronics (Italy)
— Infineon Technologies (Germany)
— NXP Semiconductors (The Netherlands and Germany)
— ChipVision Design Systems AG (Germany)
— Gradient Design Automation, Inc. (United States)
— MunEDA GmbH (Germany)
— Synopsys Inc. (Armenia and Switzerland)
— Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique (Switzerland)
— Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung (Germany)
— FORSCHUNG E.V and its IIS Dresden and IISB Erlangen Institutes (Germany)
— IMEC (Belgium)
— CEA LETI (France)
— OFFIS e.V. (Germany)
— Politecnico di Torino (Italy)
— Alma Mater Studiorum-Universita di Bologna (Italy)