AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Michael Orshansky, assistant professor of electrical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, has received a $400,000, five-year National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) award, among the most prestigious given to young faculty.
He will develop software that accurately describes the microchip behavior, as well as software for designing more reliable microchips.
“As the trend towards smaller and smaller transistors continues, it’s becoming more difficult to design circuits and systems that reliably operate,” says Orshansky.
The tiny size of these nano-scale chips (it takes one million nanometers to equal a millimeter) makes it difficult for engineers to precisely control the transistor size. As a result, they can’t figure out how the transistors will actually look once manufactured.
“We are reaching the era in which uncertainties about chip electrical properties are governed by fundamental physical laws, since we’re operating on such a minute scale,” says Orshansky. “Things we didn’t have to worry about with relatively bigger chips become very significant at about 60 nanometers.”
Orshansky has proposed to develop models and algorithms explicitly describing the electrical behavior of transistors inside the chip using the theory of probability, and creating computer-aided design software that is based on the new approaches. The software will permit describing the true electrical behavior of nano-scale chips more accurately, and will lead to the creation of faster and more reliable chips, from microprocessors for personal computers to communication devices, such as cell phones.
For the educational component of the grant, Orshansky plans to create new courses that will expose a new generation of engineering students to the emerging problems in nano-scale chip design. The courses will emphasize both the semiconductor physics and technology and the algorithmic circuit design techniques. He will also hold an open lab session during Explore UT, the university’s annual open house, to inform grade-school visitors about his research.
For more information contact: Becky Rische, College of Engineering, 512-471-7272.