Confluence of AI/ML with EDA and software engineering: ISQED 2021

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The International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design (ISQED) 2021 started today virtually in the USA. It is the premier electronic design conference. . ISQED bridges the gap between electronic/semiconductor ecosystem members, providing electronic design tools, IC technologies, packaging, assembly and test, semiconductor, etc., to achieve total design quality.

ISQED is the leading conference for design for manufacturability (DFM) and quality (DFQ) issues. ISQED emphasizes a holistic approach toward design quality to highlight and accelerate co-operation among the IC design, EDA, wafer foundry and manufacturing communities.

Arun Venkatachar, VP, AI and Central Engineering, Synopsys, presented the keynote on the confluence of AI/ML with EDA and software engineering. He talked about how AI/ML can help in chip design and product development.

Chip design a tough game to play. There are deluge of challenges. There is debug, DFM, DPT, etc. We can leverage AI and Big Data to design silicon faster, and more cost-effectively. There are connected analytics, insights, time-series, patterns, etc. Algorithms generate a ton of data. Data has become the epicenter. Synopsys has three different vectors of innovation: enabling AI chips, AI-enhanced tools, and AI-driven apps. AI/ML looks at the data.

Synopsys has AI-enhanced tools and apps. These improve the performance, QoR, and productivity, beyond what is possible algorithmically. They are also using RL for design space optimization. ML enables new way of thinking about design.

Another example is VC LP, or faster violation debug with ML. There are manufacturing-related opportunities. AI/ML use cases have finally gone into production at customers. Customers are also more savvier, and understand the importance of good data diligence. Deployment of AI solutions are different than current EDA product deployments. However, not all problems can be solved with AI/ML. Confluence of data, algorithm, etc., is need.

AI/ML can also help build better EDA products, leading to better software engineering. Systemic complexity growth has been happening in product development. Products and engineering complexity is also increasing. We need to improve the release quality and predictability, improve R&D productivity, etc.

Quality can be managed by design, such as preventive measures and built-in quality, validation, such as test and failure analysis, and defect management, such as responsiveness and support. Path to actionable insights need data points, Big Data, and intelligence. AI/ML takes the insights and starts to predict. We can also do quality-by-analytics. You need to know the defects, tests, and code. Insights enable shift-left in quality and improves productivity. Shift-left strategy is enabled by quality-by-analytics and information at the disposal of the developer.

Synopsys has ML-infused apps. There is CodeQuarry, Plan Better, Failure Triage, Bug Triage, Intelligent Test Selection, Release Analytics, and Predictive Score. An example is the code hotspot analysis tool. We need to identify the functions that are hot. This will prioritize the R&D work that yields high RoI.

In bug triaging, new bugs are automatically compared to others, and clustered, based on stack similarity. There is also the check-risk analysis. We need to identify who should review the code change, whether dependent code modules need to be considered, related bugs, etc. Today, you can link and search collaterals across the organization, using NLP.

You need to establish a unified data management strategy. Streaming data access on a unified data platform can enable a true ecosystem via data sharing. Connected analytics can yield key insights and open up new avenues. Tap into the convergence! It all starts with good data-diligent approach and process management. Use AI/ML as a new paradigm shift to improve quality, productivity, and efficiency.

Semiconductor manufacturing for wide-band GAP/MEMS

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Elcina organized a webinar today on semiconductor manufacturing for wide-band GAP (WBG)/MEMS. Rajoo Goel, Secretary General, Elcina, welcomed the participants. Pankaj Gulati, COO, CDIL, said that a lot of automotive companies, especially, require semiconductors today.

Dr. Ashwini Aggarwal, Director-Government Affairs, Applied Materials India Pvt Ltd said today is the era of Big Data, AI, and IoT. WBG semiconductors comprise silicon carbide, gallium nitride, diamond, etc. Besides, there are other materials such as silicon, germanium, gallium arsenide, zinc oxide, etc.

Band gap is the energy required to excite an electron from the valence band to the conduction band. Due to the large band energy, high temperature is required to cause ionization, so that high temperature is possible. WBG characteristics include lower on-resistance, faster switching speeds and lower switching losses, higher operating temperatures, better thermal conductivity, smaller size, lower cost, etc.

WBG is dramatically impacting semiconductors. These are used for EV/HEVs, power electronics, charging infrastructures, etc. Bare dies are packaged in discretes or modules. SiC is used for high-voltage apps, while GaN is used for low voltage. The power device market is projected to grow from 2019-24. There are also several GaN inflections, such as P-GaN, LV GaN, HV GaN, etc.

There are several WBG power devices manufacturing solutions, such as CMP (vertical GaN), MOCVD/ALD, deep reactive ion etch, PVD/CVD, transparent wafer handling, etc. These are used in IoT, communications, automotive, power, etc. GaN and SiC WBG semiconductors are largely complementary. Mainstream manufacturing is typically on the 12″ wafer size. Manufacturing equipment has to be customized to specific technology process.

Plans for India
ViSiCon Power Electronics was founded by Dr. Harshad Mehta back in 1994. Sunil Kaul, Senior Adviser, said SiCamore SEMI is leading and accelerating WBG commercialization. Ruttonsha is focusing on Si and GaN. SiC offers major advantages.

With an SiC fab, India can an active player in the next-gen power devices market. Specialty fabs for WBGs like GaN and SiC cost less than $50 million. ViSiCon’s shall bridge the gaps in India’s existing power semiconductor ecosystem. It is the first commercial company to bring SiC epi/wafer/packaging manufacturing to India.

Dr. Michael Francios, Silicon Power Corp., said their SiC development began in 1996 with Northrup-Grumman. SiCamore Semi is a US-based and owned pure-play foundry for advanced materials and power semiconductors. The SiCamore foundry should reach 6″ SiC and processes, and 6″ GaN processes in 2021, moving to 6″ SiC UHP in 2023.

The company has 3.3kV SiC planar-gate power JBSFETs. It is the second foundry for SiC power devices. Target app areas include HVs/EVs, renewable energy, mobile chargers/adapters, rail traction, electric power grid, military, aerospace, etc. The basic technology can also be used for other (650V, 900V, 1200V and 1700V) SiC power projects.

The sun is the primary UV source. UN detection is very important from different apps perspective. These devices are exposed to significantly harsh environments. Here, GaN- and AlGaN-based (and SiC, and ZnO) WBG semiconductors fit in. They remain blind to visible and IR radiation. Niche app areas include biological and chemical analysis, flame detection, space and environmental monitoring, and remote control technologies.

The key value proposition is developing GaN-/AlGaN-based photodetectors of high bandwidths and efficiencies. Key partners to Silicon Power are SiCamore Semi, and Nanoglass Photonics.

SAW/BAW filters, and future materials technology for new filters

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Prof. Ms Amelie Hagelauer, University of Bayreuth, presented on surface acoustic wave /bulk acoustic wave (SAW/BAW) filters, and current and future materials technology for new filters, at the ongoing Technology Week, organized by SEMI, USA.

There are material challenges in mobile communications. There are increasing number of frequency bands, filter components, higher frequencies, etc. BAW resonators are using AlN or AlScN with Scandium concentrations </= 10 percent.

There are BAW resonators and filter. We can calculate the electromechanical coupling. Piezoelectric properties dominate the bandwidth. A BAW ladder-filter example, and different resonator types were shown. For SMR-BAW-technology, the silicon substrate is very important.

BAW filter.

AlScN, in comparison to pure AlN allows improved piezoelectricity with increased Scandium content. Deposition is possible using physical vapor deposition (PVD) sputtering. In the first experimental study, the simplified 1.7GHz BAW resonator designs were used. Deposition of thin films with increasing Scandium concentration was done. This led to the crystallographic characterization of the AlScN thin films. There was characterization of coupling and quality.

The initial growth conditions show a key impact on the crystal quality. The more crystallites, the lower is the preferred c-axis orientation. Size of the crystallites is also an important factor. High amount of crystals does lower BAW performance. There can be design improvements in BAW resonators using electrode frame, electrode apodization, optimized surface roughness, and optimized acoustic mirror.

For SAW, we have some basics. Especially, for SAW, temperature compensation is of interest. There are different types of TC SAW structures. Variant 1 will improve the thermal expansion co-efficient (TEC) by bonding the piezoelectric substrate to a low TEC substrate like sapphire or silicon. Variant 2 will deposit an additional material with positive temperature co-efficient of velocity (TCV).

Crystal grain-free AlScN thin films for 20 percent Scandium using PVD sputtering were shown for BAW. The results were also useful for sputtering with higher Sc content. New materials offer new possibilities, such as wide bandwidth filter, advanced LC-BAW hybrid topologies, and tunable approaches.

High frequency filter performance for the n41 band was also demonstrated. Quality factor is still lower than for pure AlN, even without crystal gains. Deposition-based limitations using sputtering might be the reason. The other deposition methods for higher crystal quality and lower loss like metal oxide chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) or pulsed layer deposition (PLD) have to be considered. PLD is a promising approach that could allow moderate deposition rats and cost per wafer using high-frequency lasers, local stress control, and high BAW performance and crystal quality for Scandium concentration up to 40 percent.

Technological challenges for MOS HEMT GaN power devices

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SEMI, USA, organized the Technology Week seminar. Day 1 focused on power electronics and devices. Ms. Veronique Sousa, CEA Leti, presented on the technological challenges for MOS HEMT (metal-oxide-semiconductor high-electron mobility transistor) GaN power devices.

There are wide band gap semiconductors. WBG and UWBG semiconductors are used for low-frequency unipolar vertical power switches. WBG apps range features SiC and GaN. SiC is quite mature. Looking at the long-term GaN power market evolution, GaN devices dominated the consumer market segment in 2018. By 2024, it will be introduced in the automotive market, and later, the industrial segment, by 2030. By this time, the industrial market will take off, and consumer and automotive markets will co-exist.

There are the N-ON GaN technologies. Examples are the P-GaN HEMT, hybrid drain GIT, and MOS HEMT GaN. P-GaN is in production at TSMC, and in R&D at IMEC. Hybrid drain GIT is in production at Panasonic and Infineon. MOS HEMT GaN is in R&D at ST/HRL, Toshiba, and Leti. Looking at the description of the main building blocks, there is epitaxy GaN on Si and passivation, recessed gate structure, and drain/source ohmic contact.

The pGaN FET architecture of devices is now available on the market for several “end-users” applications. CEA/LETI has develop another approach to meet the requirements of power electronics with an isolated MIS GATE HEMT GaN solution. This option is on its way to reach an industrial level of maturity.

A GaN-on-Si epitaxy has been developed. There are no holes for 10mm2 devices. As for DC device characteristics, there is positive Vth of 1.85V, but 500mV hysteresis is likely, due to the gate dielectric charge trapping.

There are technological challenges such as carbon contamimation. Yet another is gate trench etch. ALE process reduces the damage by conventional etching. There is the investigation of the etch impact on the trench profile after conventional etching and atomic layer etching. A new differential method allows to evaluate the contribution of the gate edge regions in the total MIS-HEMT device conductance. Another challenge is the wet clean before the high K deposition. There is the effect of the wet treatments prior to ALD of Al2O3.

We have shown the MOS-Gate stack. Ohmic contact on ALGaN/GaN is required. There is low resistive CMOS-compatible ohmic contact (Ti/Ai) on AlGaN/GaN. MOS gate HEMT GaN power devices have shown promising perspectives. Isolated gate provides its intrinsic benefits in terms of leakage and di-electric lifetimes. The ageing of gate stack should be pursued before starting reliability evaluation of the device.

Reliability of SiC MOSFETS: IRPS 2021

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International Reliability Physics Symposium (IRPS) 2021 commenced in Monterrey, California, USA. Dr. John Palmour, CTO Cree/Wolfspeed, presented a keynote on SiC MOSFET Reliability: An overnight success 30 years in making. Robert Kaplar, Sandia, General Chair, IRPS 2021, introduced Dr. Palmour.

Wolfspeed offers vertically-integrated SiC and GaN devices. SiC power MOSFETs are being rapidly adopted for EVs. SiCs are well established in OBCs, and gaining traction in off-board chargers. They offer improved range and/or cost for BEVs vs. the current Si IGBT solution.

There has been adoption of Wolfspeed SiC across various apps. Eg., PV inverters, battery chargers for EVs, server power supply, and traction, etc. SiC impact on key apps is in electric vehicles. These are used in drivetrain inverters, auxiliary inverters, fuel-cell DC-DC, onboard charging, solid-state circuit breakers, etc.

SiC MOSFET improve the cost of ownership. The inverter-level loss comparison is significant. The overall cost of EV can come down by $15,000-$100,000. You can shed cost by SiC battery savings, and also for weight and cooling savings. There is 2.5x increase in power density, and 10 percent reduction in capacitors.

The shift from silicon to silicon carbide delivers cost savings for OEMs. There is ~10 percent battery savings, space and weight savings, cooling replacement savings, etc. The e-powertrain can be re-purposed for further e-markets. For e-mobility, they can be used for e-tank, etc. Off board charging DC-DC efficiency and power density are also improved. There is 33 percent more power, and 25 percent smaller size.

SiC MOSFETs history
There was the usage of first real MOSFETSs in SiC in 1987. We had to move to 3C-SiC MOSFET on 6H-SiC Lely platelet at 650C. The first 6H-SiC inversion-mode MOSFET came in 1989. The first trench (UMOS) 6H-SiC MOSFETs came in 1992. The mobility was much better. However, 6H-SiC had severe electron mobility anisotropy. In 1995, we delivered the first 4H-SiC MOSFETs (UMOS).

The SiC evolution and R&D milestones have been rapid at Wolfspeed. In 2008, we got to the SiC 1200 V DMOSFET on-state performance. The industry’s first SiC MOSFET was made available in 2011 from Cree. In fact, Barack Obama, then president, USA, asked a question about oxide reliability due to lower conduction band offsets. Wolfspeed SiC MOSFETs are now a decade in the market. Tesla was the first automotive company to jump into SiC. Cree has also partnered with Delphi Technologies for SiC into EV powertrains.

Why is SiC reliable?
There is decreasing failure rate for SiCs. Minimal parametric shift has been witnessed post stress. In qualification testing, there was parametric shift post 1,000 hours of high-temperature blocking (HTGB) stress. Si IGBTs show sharper failure onset, but higher max failure rate.

Looking at time-dependant di-electric breakdown (TDDB), there is TDDB data for three different gate voltages and three different temperatures, using at least 40 counts of Cree Gen 3 devices at each stress condition.

There is the accelerated life test high temperature reverse bias (ALT-HTRB). Physical failure analysis on Wolfspeed MOSFETs shows that failures are gate oxide related. ALT-HTRB fits with Weibull statistics and linear-V model. The mean time to failure (MTTF) is shown. It predicts high lifetimes at typical use voltages. Automotive quality depends on fundamental SiC reliability. Capacity required for automotive is a quantum leap for SiC wafer and fab capacity.

SiC power MOSFETs have been in development for 34 years. Three different types of polytypes were explored. settling on 4H-SIC. There were seven wafer diameter increases. The current capability increased by 100,000, and voltage capability by 3,000. Oxides have proven to be reliable.

The BEV market for SiC has been seeing rapid expansion due to the benefits that SiC brings. They are smaller, lighter, with more efficient chargers. There are faster, and more economical charging times. SiC oxides are now looking on part with SiO2 on Si. Sensitivity to terrestrial neutrons is on par with the insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBTs), and much lower at higher bias. Gen 3 planar MOSFETs are ‘hard to kill’ in reverse bias.

Semiconductor outlook 2021 — navigating through turbulent times

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SEMI Silicon Valley Chapter and SEMI Northeast Chapter organized a conference today on Semiconductor Outlook — Navigating Through Turbulent Times – Is the End Near?

David Anderson, President, SEMI Americas, said that the pandemic saw our homes become offices. We had to adapt quickly and our industry kept on going. He added that the Semicon West 2021 has been rescheduled to Dec. 7-9, 2021, in San Francisco, USA.

Memory and storage in data economy
Indradeep Ghosh, Senior Director, Market Intelligence, Micron Technology, talked about memory and storage in the data economy. Electronics today has become a necessity of life. We have seen an acceleration in digital transformation. Memory and storage consumption has been accelerating. DRAM and NAND consumption has been growing per capita. DRAM and NAND revenue has been growing faster than the semiconductor industry.

Indraneel Ghosh.

Technology innovation has unlocked the data economy. Two major trends are AI and 5G. The data-centric cloud is moving to the intelligent edge, on to devices. They are accelerating innovation. New wave of innovation will transform the multiple industries over the next decade. These include mobility, healthcare, media and entertainment, agriculture, and industrial.

A few examples are connected smart vehicles and fully autonomous driving, remote health monitoring and early progonosis, remote operations and IoT in hospitals, immersive media, AR/VR and ubiquitous live streaming, AI-enabled user generated content, robotics, drones, satellite and soil sensors, end-to-end traceability for food safety and spoilage, and cloud control of machines, AR, video analytics, etc.

Interesting markets
Data center DRAM is critical for compute-intensive apps. There will by ~13X AI server adoption by 2025. AI servers have ~6X the DRAM content of industry-standard servers. AI will become more pervasive. AI core use cases will be in business apps, content and collaborative, data management, gaming, media streaming, and web and app servers. AI use cases will also be in recommender systems, conversational technologies, image and video analytics, autonomous driving, cyber security, smart manufacturing, etc.

Data center NAND will be critical for data-hungry apps. NAND content on servers will more than double from 2020-2024. There will be 32 percent CAGR data center storage bit shipment growth. Few high-growth apps include structured data analytics, content apps, collaborative apps, app development and testing, etc. Performance will be across unstructured data analytics, media streaming, security, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and engineering/technical apps.

Automotive will be the fastest growing memory and storage market. Content today is mostly infotainment driven. The ADAS adoption will be huge, with L1/L2 ~50 percent in 2020, and L3 <10 percent in 2025. Growing capabilities will be in large screen digital cockpit, ADAS L1/L2 and L3, event data recorder/driver monitoting, and telematic gateway.

In mobile, 5G will drive the smartphone content growth. There are growing 5G use cases. In photography and social, there are use cases such as 100+MP snapshots, 4K/8K video capture, triple picture/video capture, AI-enhanced real-time editing, 4K video livestream, LiDAR and advanced sensors. In entertainment and gaming, there are 4K display/immersive media, AR/VR shopping and gaming navigation, eSports/desktop-level gaming, etc. For healthcare and fitness, there are advanced sensors, AI-based health monitoring, etc.

For PCs, there will be new use cases driving a resurgence in demand. PCs saw double-digit growth in 2020. They are an essential device for WFH and remote learning. There are expanding use cases, such as video conferencing, apps to create, collaborate and productivity, entertainment, gaming and social.

The long-term DRAM bit demand CAGR will be of mid-high teens. The long-term NAND bit demand will be CAGR of approximately 30 percent.

State of EDA
Next, Jay Vleeschhouwer, MD, Griffin Securities, presented the state of EDA. The combined enterprise values of Cadence Design and Synopsys are ≈$80 billion, or more than 12x 2020 combined revenues, and almost 12x estimated 2021 revenues.

Jay Vleeschhouwer.

Five years ago, the combined enterprise values of Cadence, Synopsys and Mentor was ≈$16.1 billion. The material increase in value has been sustained by a combination of bookings growth, increasing backlog, increasing operating income (up 115 percent over the past half-decade), and increasing operating cash flow (up more than 115 percent over the past half-decade).

We estimate that EDA industry revenue increased by 11-12 percent in 2020 to more than $9.2 billion. The industry has continued to consolidate. Cadence and Synopsys – the Big 2 – accounted for ≈66 percent of industry revenues, as compared with ≈64 percent in 2015 and ≈53 percent in 2010. Mentor has also sustained its prior, pre-acquisition average share (19-20 percent), since it was acquired by Siemens in 2017. Mentor has shown good momentum in physical
verification (Calibre) and PCB. Synopsys-Cadence-Mentor-Ansys have nearly 90 percent of the industry revenues.

For 2021, we are estimating that Cadence’s revenues will increase 7 percent to $2.56 billion, and Synopsys’ EDA revenues will increase 7 percent to nearly $3.7 billion. Similarly, we are estimating that Ansys’ EDA business will increase by 7 percent to more than $360 million.

The earlier dip in EDA revenue was due to the recession. Japan has lost share, while Europe has gone sideways. Mentor has retained its revenue share. while Cadence and Synopsys have also increased their revenue.

The combined Big 2 EDA bookings were $5.89 billion in 2020, up ≈15 percent. We are estimating $5.93 billion for 2021 and more than $6.5 billion by 2023 – consistent with an expectation of better than mid-single-digit bookings growth and continued increases in backlog. The combined Big 2 backlog was $8.5 billion as of the end of 2020, up from $8 billion as of the end of 2019. We are estimating as much as $9 billion by the end of 2021. The combined EDA Big 2 operating income in 2020 was $2.075 billion, or 31.9 percent of revenues, vs. $1.574 billion in 2014, or 27.6 percent of revenues, and $967 million in 2015, or 24.4 percent of revenues.
For 2021, we are estimating combined income of $2.26 billion, or 32.5 percent of the estimated revenues, and $2.75 billion by 2023, or more than 35 percent of the estimated revenues.

Diverse growth
Growth has been diverse, across many categories. This diverse base is expected to continue and be a driver. According to industry data, IC implementation, PCB, synthesis, analog/mixed-signal simulation, analysis, custom layout, and hardware-based verification have each had multiple consecutive periods of growth on a trailing-twelve-month (TTM) basis, plus improving trends for physical verification and RTL simulation.

The regular, co-inciding demand across multiple product categories by both the semiconductor and systems customers has been fundamentally conducive to EDA revenue growth – and, this phenomenon is very likely to continue. Each one of the EDA Big 4 – Synopsys, Cadence, Mentor and Ansys – participates in at least two of the growing categories. In physical verification, Mentor has dominated.

One of the most important product mix changes over the past 5-10 years has been growth of hardware-based verification (emulation and prototyping). The combined Cadence-Synopsys hardware revenues were more than $470 million in 2020, nearly doubling from 2015. Combined EDA IP revenues for Cadence and Synopsys were ≈$1.39 billion in 2020, (over 20 percent of combined revenue), vs. ≈ $1.1 billion in 2019, and more than ≈$620 million in 2015. The 2015-2020 CAGR for Big 2 core EDA software revenues (ex hardware and IP) was about ≈6 percent.

Two arms races
There are two arms races underway in technology: software development and silicon development. The investments in silicon development – by semiconductor companies, still the majority of EDA revenues, and the always important class of systems companies, e.g., Apple, Microsoft et al – are dependent upon EDA’s role as a source of essential technologies and services, and as such are sustaining the EDA industry’s revenue, income, and cash flow momentum.

The EDA industry growth has been sustained by growing demand among multiple EDA tool categories – as compared with earlier periods of more narrowly based growth. This has been, and is likely to remain, an important phenomenon, supported by the growth of semiconductor R&D budgets and systems customer product engineering budgets. These customer investments are in turn sustaining, and enabled by, EDA investments in R&D.

In 2020, the combined Cadence-Synopsys R&D was more than $2.35 billion (≈37 percent of revenues), vs. $2.116 billion in 2019, $1.429 billion in 2015 and $845 million in 2010. Cumulative combined R&D over the past decade (2010-2020) was more than $15.7 billion. We are estimating almost $2.5 billion for 2021 and more than $2.72 billion by 2023.

In semiconductor R&D, a composite of more than 25 semiconductor companies showed total R&D of $45.1 billion in 2019, up 2 percent. Intel accounted for ≈30 In semiconductor R&D, of this total. For the TTM ended 3Q20, total R&D was more than $46.8 billion, up almost 4 percent. The total R&D spending, excluding Intel, was up almost 4 percent in 2019 and ≈6 percent for the TTM ended 3Q20.

Among the semiconductor companies that have reported 2020 results, AMD’s R&D increased by 28 percent, Infineon’s by 29 percent, Intel’s by 1.5 percent, NXP’s by 5 percent, Nvidia’s by 39 percent (including Mellanox), Renesas’ by 2 percent, and ST’s by 3 percent. We have calculated that Intel’s commercial EDA spending accounts for as much as a high-single-digit percent of EDA industry revenues (more than $625 million in 2020). About three-fourths of its spending is with Synopsys, plus Cadence, Mentor and Ansys. There has been good bookings for the big 3 players over an 8-year period.

Part 2 continues later.

Focus on sustainability and power for batteries

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There was a panel discussion around sustainability and power at the ongoing SEMI Flex 2021. The participants were Prof. Pradeep Lall, Director, Auburn University, Joseph C. Bush, VP Business Development, Battery Resources, Zachary A. Combs, Innovation Manager, Materials, Birla Carbon, Brian Berland, CTO, ITN Energy Systems, Andrew Manning, President and CEO, Lithium Battery Engineering, and Brian Zahnstecher, Principal, PowerRox LLC.

Pradeep Lall said that from a thin flexible battery standpoint, it is more of a new architecture. If we use these for asset monitoring, they might be dynamic. Less is known about these dynamic loads and how do we test for them. Inter-relationship between the variables are not yet understood properly.

Brian Berland said that some batteries need high power, etc. When you go to the highest energy density batteries, and start to integrate, it involves inductors, capacitors, etc. That can take away some of the advantage.

Andrew Manning noted that design factors go into the making of a battery. One challenge is the economic challenge. It costs money for a manufacturing line. Unless you standardize on a format, the cost of a battery can get expensive. The average cost of smart card battery is about 80 cents. We have to think more about developing something that is manufacturable.

Joseph C. Bush added that talking about tiny batteries make ones wonder about consumer behavior. We need to see the product is economical and functional in its life. We need to design with the end in mind. At least 50 percent of consumer electronics is now recycled. What’s going to happen to the batteries, though?

Zachary A. Combs said they are supplying raw materials in the market so those can use existing and re-useable manufacturing processes. We have a significant supply chain. North America is building a superior supply chain.

Brian Zahnstecher added that there are sources and loads are tied together. We also have to look at how they impact, up to the source, particularly, wireless. Base stations are one of the worst offenders. The key is to take a disaggregation model, as in the data centers. There are distributed energy resources. Economics of renewable sources, especially PV, have also become reasonable. The universe of currency is energy. The energy impact on policy making can also be made. The goal of our group is to educate about energy optimization.

Maintaining resources
When do we run out with resources? There are EV companies, as well. Pradeep Lall said some of the elements may be less prolifically available. That seems to be a moving target. The industry is moving the target more for recycling. We are trying to get similar performance from the recycled batteries. The targets are also moving away, as well. People are also looking at supercapacitors.

Joseph Bush said they recycle over 95 percent of the batteries. Over 28 percent of them can go straight to battery manufacturing. We are going to see incredible performance changes. There is the Tesla EV model that works great. Can they be LFP (lithium ferrophosphate) batteries? We are going to see diversification of chemistries.

Zachary A. Combs said the Li-ion batteries have a hockey stick approach. LFP batteries may come in. There is certainly going to be a raw materials strain, maybe, later. Brian Berland said there are mm-sized batteries that can last for some time. The cost of materials is important. Andrew Manning added that we do have raw materials problem, which will work itself out. We need to see where are we going to get the energy to charge all of these batteries.

Brian Zahnstecher said that we should focus on energy harvesting. Reality occurs in many business domains. When it comes to BOM cost, why should one replace a 10 cent battery material? There is self-powered battery. We can do preventive maintenance for expensive equipment. Joseph Bush added that it is a problem recycling lithium-ion batteries. The economic model needs to be looked at. Who is footing the bill for electrification?

Standards and technologies are required for final acquisition decisions. Brian Zahnstecher said there is a systems framework that needs to be standardized. We are proposing a framework. Pradeep Lall added that new batteries have to conform to established standards for the rigid batteries. We can expect to see standards developed.

Green batteries for blending electronics in daily life

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Ms. Christine Ho, CEO and Co-founder, Imprint Energy, presented the keynote on green batteries for blending electronics in our daily lives on day 4 of the ongoing SEMI Flex 2021.

There is an urgency to deploy over 100 billion IoT devices to eliminate over 15 percent of our GHG emissions by 2030. IoT devices can be designed to have over 10x sustainability. There is also a call to reduce the global emissions by half by 2030. The transformation proposed is necessary and achievable.

Ms. Christine Ho.

The digital sector has the potential to directly reduce fossil fuel emissions by 15 percent by 2030, and indirectly support further reduction of 35 percent across other sectors through the influence of consumers and business decisions, and system transformations. A connected IoT network will provide data for our daily decisions. IoT will be the digital skin that protects the earth. We are on track to deploy 125 billion Internet-connected devices by 2030.

As an example, Covid-19 vaccines are very temperature sensitive. We have to find a way to reduce wastage and damaged goods. Smart tags are made possible by technology innovations. They exist today as electronics can be flexible and robust. Tags are composed of wireless chip, battery and an antenna. The battery is the single-largest carbon footprint indicator. Imprint Energy has thousands of roll-to-roll screen printed batteries. So, how do we build sustainable power sources for the next trillion IoT devices?

By reducing the carbon footprint, one can maximize resources. There is a unique opportunity for companies to lead. We have the responsibility to provide greener batteries to achieve our sustainable goals. We can start by choosing lower carbon footprint raw material. We can choose sustainability-focused suppliers. We can also reduce manufacturing factory size and distribution of carbon footprints. We can extend the usage and find pathways to re-use and recycle batteries. Battery companies can also work with designers to improve battery lifetime. Imprint Energy has designed a sustainable and high performance battery to blend electronics into our lives.

MEMS and sensors driving innovation: Flex 2021

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There was a panel discussion on MEMS and sensors driving innovation at the ongoing SEMI Flex 2021. The participants were Matthew Dyson, IDTechEx, Hadi Hosseini, Stanford University, Michael Brothers, UES and ARFL, Ms. Erin Ratcliff, University of Arizona, Michael Crump, University of Washington, and Ms. Moran Amit, University of California, San Diego.

Matthew Dyson said there are lot of benefits and significant savings over time. There are apps in wearable, stretchable devices, etc. There is demand from smartphones that is the driver of MEMS and sensors business. A lot of money is also going into printable electronics.

Michael Brothers added that you have to identify key parameters within your own scenario. Ms. Erin Ratcliff noted that we need to look at larger area for sweat, as an example. We are doing architectural design in the virtual space. Michael Crump, said that with stretchable field sensors, you can stretch sensitive materials. You can see a baseline shift, as you stretch them. We took the approach of 3D printed jel paste where zero space does not change. We also need to look at how the sensors resistance changes over time.

Ms. Moran Amit added the baseline is a bit different for them. An example is the thermometer. 36.7C is normal for everyone. If the baseline is zero, it may still look different from a kid to another. Different sensors would work for different kids. Hadi Hosseini said that people are looking to use the wearables to diagnose illnesses. We are looking at changes in oxidation in the blood. We are also prototyping. We got a grant last year to develop a device. We are hoping to collect data for children with ADHD. My focus is on mental illness. There are other areas like mental wellness.

Medical community responding to sensors
It would be interesting to see how is the medical community responding to the use of sensors. Michael Brothers said there is some response. One of the key drivers is cost and benefit. People are interested in wearables. There are factors preventing adoption in the medical community, for now.

Turning to non-imaging techniques, what bio-parameters in a wearable device could help with mental health diagnosis? Hadi Hosseini said that with ADHD, you can use sensors to identify patterns in the child. People have been also looking at cell phones to collect data in the background. Matthew Dyson added that wearables for mental health diagnosis have been developed in Belgium. Monitoring of electrical signals include muscle and brain activity for mental health diagnosis. Ms. Erin Ratcliff said when you design a sensor, it has to give information about something new. How do you translate that into full device study?

Michael Brothers felt that biosystems work in a different way. Sensors should be created to identify changes in the human body. You have ask about the right problems. You also need clinical trials to introduce new sensors. It is also very hard to determine physiological relations. Ms Erin Ratcliffe added that there are teams that design sensors. You may have to guess the range, but that’s not a useful detection strategy.

Matthew Dyson said there is a lot applicable to flexible electronics. There should be specific bodies for doing that. There should be some designated standards bodies. Ms. Erin Ratcliffe noted that consortium models are beginning to evolve. Companies also hope to listen.

World greener
According to Michael Crump, sustainability is pervasive throughout. They are able to print features for energy overhead. As for using AI/ML for key markers, Hadi Hosseini said that we don’t have enough data yet for specific disorders. It takes time to collect data. There are lot of ML studies. Generalizing data for 100-200 patients can be challenging. We collect brain imaging data from patients to identify sub-types of illnesses.

Michael Brothers added there can be array sensors, mass factor patterns, etc. There is lot of work needed in AI/ML. It is an interesting problem. The issue is: how do you collect all the data? Ms. Moran Amit said that there is stress on waste and sustainability. Our system has the doctor equipped with it, to assess many people. A thermometer can be used over and over again. There may be less sales.

Michael Crump felt that there is a need to get to conductive trace. We don’t want to be printing lines and lines, but just one line. We are trying to get to the place where we can print something from a single pass. Ms. Erin Ratcliffe added there needs to be more targeted focus on $10-15 type models, rather than $100 and above. Hadi Hosseini said there are many different technologies. Some of them are not yet developed enough or are underdeveloped. We need to work with the others. There’s the application of more advanced techniques, such as printable materials.

Matthew Dyson felt there is room for new technologies. A lot of progress is made on printed electronics. Sensors are being deployed in cars, wearables, missiles, etc. There will be more apps that make it to commercial reality.

Electronics on the brain: Flex 2021

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Day 3 of the SEMI Flex 2021 started with George Malliaras, Prince Philip Prof. of Technology, University of Cambridge, presenting the keynote on electronics on the brain.

One of the most important scientific and technological frontiers of our time is the interfacing of electronics with the human brain. This endeavor promises to help understand how the brain works and deliver new tools for the diagnosis and treatment of pathologies including epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

George Malliaras.

Current solutions are limited by the materials that are brought in contact with the tissue and transduce signals across the biotic/abiotic interface. Recent advances in electronics have made available materials with a unique combination of attractive properties, including mechanical flexibility, mixed ionic/electronic conduction, enhanced biocompatibility, and capability for drug delivery. He presented examples of novel devices for recording and stimulation of neurons and show that organic electronic materials offer tremendous opportunities to study the brain and treat its pathologies.

Bioelectronic medicine is game changing. There has been the emergence of bioelectronic medicine. We have nerve simulation for autoimmune diseases, etc. The current technology is however, limiting. Signals are small and diverse, and the environment is hostile to electronics. It also requires highly invasive and multiple surgeries.

Teaching electronics is sometimes a foreign language. We need to get drugs into the brain. Bioelectronics is interfacing biology and electronics. There is sensing and diagnosis. This leads to actuation and treatment of the brain. High resolution brain mapping is an example. If you use organices, there is used mixed conductivity that leads to novel, state-of-the-art devices. The physics of these materials is still under investigation.

There is volumetric ion transport in PEDOT/PSS microelectrodes. There are recordings of single neurons from the brain surface. Current work is looking at large area and high density. We also have some options for treating epilepsy.

There is localised drug delivery past the blood-brain barrier. These have been used for brain cancers, and there is a large gamut of drugs. We can get spatiotemporal control, as well. However, wafers offer limited cargo and it is not suitable. we need to develop new technologies. An example is the organic electronic ion pump. In the ion exchange membrane, the ions flow in only one direction — from source to target.

There is electrophoretic drug delivery, as well. We use GABA delivery in vitro. Also, implantable devices stop or prevent seizures. Another app is chemotherapy delivery to nonresectable brain tumours. Implants often require highly invasive surgery. Paddle-type electrodes are more efficient, but they require lamenectomy.

When you combine bioelectronics with soft robotics, there are expandable impants. There is dynamic control of the device shape. You can deploy in spinal cords in cadavers.

Implantable electronics hold considerable promise for understanding te brain and addressing the pathologies. Mixed conductors enable high resolution cortical electrodes that record neurons without penetrating the brain. Electrophoretic devices can deliver the drug without the solvent, with excellent spatiotemporal resolution. They stop/prevent seizures in an animal model. Microfluidics allow expandable implants that minimize the invasiveness of neurosurgery.