Glasgow Uni, Intel team up as part of EC memories taskforce

LONDON — Intel Corp. is working with researchers at Glasgow University on the design of future nanoscale memories as part of a European Commission taskforce set up to investigate how to design the next generation of tera-scale computer memory systems.

The taskforce has been asked to come up with new ways of designing future microchip memories which take into account the variability and unreliability of nano-scale transistors.

The ‘Tera-scale Reliable Adaptive Memory Systems’ (TRAMS) consortium includes: Intel Corp. Iberia, Interuniversitair Micro-Elektronica Centrium vzw, the University of Glasgow, and the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, and is financed through the EU’s Framework Programme 7 science research fund.

Professor Asen Asenov, of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Glasgow said, “Tera-scale computing will transform the power, performance and functionality of personal computers, phones and other electronic devices as well as large computing facilities such as data centres.”

“However,” added Prof. Asenov, “if we are to continue to shrink the size of transistors in order to develop such powerful circuits, we need fundamentally new approaches to circuit and system design that can take account of the variability within transistors.”

“We hope this project will result in new chip design paradigms for building reliable memory systems out of unreliable nano-scale components cheaply and effectively, heralding the era of tera-scale computing.”

Central to the project is simulation software developed by Prof Asenov in an earlier £5.3million (about $.2 million) Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council eScience pilot project called NanoCMOS.

The NanoCMOS simulations use grid computing, which utilises the processor power of thousands of linked computers, to simulate how hundreds of thousands of transistors, each with their own individual characterstics, will function within a circuit.

Prof Asenov and the University of Glasgow is setting up a company called Gold Standard Simulations to exploit this technology which will be critical to the work of the TRAMS project, with all device design and simulation work being conducted at Glasgow.

In investigating design possibilities for future microchips, the team will focus on future generation of CMOS microchip technologies – which comprise transistors less than 16 nanometres in size (by comparison a human hair is around 100,000 nanometres wide). The transistors will be design and simulated exclusively by Glasgow.

The TRAMS consortium will also consider what are known as ‘Beyond CMOS’ technologies; nanowire transistors, quantum devices, carbon nanotubes and molecular electronics, which are expected to be as small as five nanometres.

The project is expected to last three years.

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