Technology surprise – high-impact but unexpected developments as technology progresses – can cut both ways.
Technology breakthroughs can enable new applications or rapid progression of existing capabilities. However, unintended consequences of technology maturation often occur. The relentless pursuit of faster, better, more capable systems on the cutting edge of science and engineering can introduce surprises – not all of them desirable.
One important microelectronic technology surprise that has accompanied Moore’s Law scaling of integrated circuits has been the increasing susceptibility of integrated circuits to soft faults – including externally-generated errors from natural or manmade radiation or internally-generated errors from stochastic processes – with each scaled technology generation.
While extrinsic errors and faults can be inconvenient in commercial microelectronics, they can be devastating in mission-critical or “must not fail” systems. As a result, such high-reliability microelectronics have historically “lagged” the state-of-the-art in terms of sophistication or technology generation. Often it is expedient to pursue what one knows, rather than venturing into uncharted territory. Legacy technology has often been the safest option in cases of high-regret potential failure.
Actionable knowledge is the key to overcoming these limitations.
A program for the insertion of the most advanced commercial technologies into mission-critical applications is enabled by designer access to sophisticated models and simulations, comprehensive technology information, and appropriate test devices for the characterization of extreme environmental conditions (for example, radiation, temperature, or stress) that may take the system outside of the nominal design specifications.
Rel-Micro engineers have developed portable test chip structures for reliability characterization of the most advanced technology nodes (custom test coupons). These test coupons include basic test structures (technology characterization vehicles or TCVs) and novel test circuits (circuit test vehicles or CTVs) for characterization of the resiliency of advanced technologies in hostile environments.
Rel-Micro staff have developed simulation and modeling tools that allow designers to predict the response of technologies to radiation effects prior to fabrication and testing. Failures can be discovered, and mitigation techniques developed, before the first part is built or deployed.
Once the vulnerabilities of a technology are known, Rel-Micro engineers are accomplished in the development and application of novel radiation-hardened design techniques (RHBD) for the mitigation of failure in a technology for specific customer applications. Whether space-bound, military mission-critical, or commercial “cannot fail” deployment, Rel-Micro-designed circuits can fulfill customer-supplied specifications and metrics through system-level, circuit-level, and technology-level solutions.
Reliable MicroSystems engineers have operational experience in the following areas:
- The assessment of the performance of advanced technologies via characterization through custom test coupons
- The modeling and simulation of radiation-induced faults and failures to predict vulnerabilities of technologies and designs, and assess risk in mission-critical deployment
- The development of test methods and plans for predicting the performance and survival of electronics in radiation environments
- The development and validation of radiation hardened by design mitigation techniques in advanced semiconductor technologies to enable the engineering of resilient designs
- The implementation of microelectronic designs in all current pure-play integrated circuit foundry technology nodes