Notre Dame faculty organize discussion of emerging transistor technologies

April 23, 2014

Sharon Hu

University of Notre Dame Computer Science and Engineering faculty members X. Sharon Hu and Michael Niemier were the lead organizers of a special tutorial session on emerging transistor technologies at the Design, Automation and Test in Europe (DATE) conference. DATE is one of the premier conferences for engineers who study both hardware and software design, as well as the manufacturing and testing, of electronic circuits and systems. Held in Dresden, Germany, in late March, DATE attracted more than 1450 experts from around the world.

Entitled, “Emerging Transistor Technologies: From Devices to Architectures,” the session specifically addressed how new computational devices might enable new circuits and processing paradigms – paradigms that could in turn help to continue the performance scaling trends associated with Moore’s Law.

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Moore’s Law, the primary driver of the semiconductor industry over the last 40 years, holds that the number of devices on chip will double approximately every two years. An important corollary to Moore’s Law is that microprocessor performance improves at roughly the same rate.

“The ‘vertically integrated’ presentations in this session focused on devices, or transistors, that operate at low voltages and that have steep slopes,” explained Hu.

Presenters first introduced desirable (and undesirable) features of new device technologies, and then  highlighted how new transistor technologies could impact von Neumann architectures (i.e., that execute a program written by a user to solve a particular problem). Finally, they illustrated how new device technologies could lead to significant improvements in the performance/efficiency of non-von Neumann architectures. Notably, the second and third talks identified roles for new device technologies in hybrid analog-digital systems with an end goal of improved application-level performance/efficiency.

Other participants included Prof. Adrian Ionescu from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, Prof. Vijay Narayanan from the Pennsylvania State University, and Prof. András Horváth from Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Budapest, Hungary.

“It should be noted that many of the emerging device technologies that formed the basis for this session are being developed under the umbrella of the Low Energy Systems Technology (LEAST) center that is based at Notre Dame,” added Niemier.

LEAST is sponsored by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).