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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 19 | November 29, 2001

Researchers poised to lead revolutionary chip wave

New lab to be a training ground for chip designers

by Michelle Cook staff writer

There's a widening gap between computer chip technology and productivity that means we are waiting longer for new Palm Pilots, cell phones, and electronic products to hit the market. And paying higher prices for them once they get there.

But there is a way high-tech manufacturers can increase productivity while reducing the design cycle. It's a revolutionary technology called System on Chip (SoC) that allows engineers to shrink all of the computer chips previously found on a circuit board onto a single, thumbnail-sized chip.

With the opening of the System on Chip research lab on campus today, UBC researchers will be at the forefront of this next big wave in integrated circuit design.

The centre, the first of its kind at a North American university devoted to the design, testing and verification of SoC technology, will be headed up by Electrical and Computer Engineering Prof. Resve Saleh and Prof. Andre Ivanov.

"With SoC technology you won't have to design from scratch anymore which will give us the ability to crank out chips faster," says Saleh. "The technology is a little bit like pre-fabricated home building where you take pre-assembled parts to a site to be put together."

By the end of this decade, Saleh expects a functional chip containing more than one billion transistors will be designed in the high-tech industry -- he hopes using technological advances developed at UBC.

The goal, Saleh says, is to be the leading SoC research group and to establish UBC as a world-class research centre for the design, verification and testing of high-speed mixed-signal system on chip projects within five years.

The lab's research will include designing reusable chips with their own built-in testing capability, and integrating digital and analog components on a single chip.

In addition to Saleh and Ivanov, three professors and 30 students and staff will use the facility. It will also be a training ground for the next generation of chip designers who will need to understand the whole process from the system level to the silicon level.

With the revolution in SoC research, Saleh explains, this is the kind of engineer the industry will need in the coming years.

The lab's work is being conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Microelectronics Corp. (CMC), a not-for-profit organization that provides industrial microelectronic technologies to Canadian educational institutions.

CMC has invested $40 million to provide SoC research infrastructure at universities. It will manufacture chips based on design data from UBC and return them for testing.

The SoC Lab has received $3.2 million in funding from industry and government sources including the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and local high-tech company PMC-Sierra.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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