European THERMINATOR Project Warms Efforts to Cool Semiconductor Design Solutions

April 04, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

The partners in a new EU-funded research project announced details of the multinational/multidisciplinary program: "THERMINATOR – Modeling, Control and Management of Thermal Effects in Electronic Circuits of the Future".

The 3-year project is designed to maintain the strong positions that Europe’s semiconductor and electronics equipment companies have achieved in highly competitive application areas such as automotive systems and factory automation where the semiconductor devices are often required to work under harsh conditions with temperatures in excess of 100°C.

Thermal effects have always been important in determining the performance, cost and reliability of both the device itself as well as for the application in which it is used. For example, packages that are able to sustain high temperatures are expensive, as are heat-sinks and cooling systems. In addition, high operating temperatures tend to cause performance degradation or even malfunctioning of circuits and components, thus reducing the reliability of the end application. For this reason, models that predict the thermal characteristics of semiconductor devices have long been included in the EDA (Electronic Design Automation) software that chip manufacturers use to design their devices. However, these existing design tools are not sufficient in terms of being able to handle the new materials and extremely small structures that will be required in future applications and technologies where heat/power management is of vital importance.

"European companies have achieved strong positions in important markets such as automotive and industrial electronics," said Salvatore Rinaudo, Therminator project coordinator and Industrial and Multisegment Sector CAD R&D Director at STMicroelectronics. "To enable them to fully exploit the opportunities opened up by the semiconductor technologies of the future, including CMOS and alternatives to CMOS, new, thermal-aware design paradigms are required."

The project will draw on the complementary expertise of industrial partners (semiconductor manufacturers and EDA suppliers), research institutions and universities to meet three key goals: (1) To devise innovative thermal models, usable at different levels of abstraction, and to interface/integrate them into existing simulation and design frameworks; (2) To develop new, thermal-aware design solutions, customized for the different technologies and application domains of interest; and (3) To enhance existing EDA solutions via thermal-aware add-on tools that will enable designers to address temperature issues more effectively using their existing design flows.

The total cost of the project is €11M, part of which will be contributed by the European Union under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The partners and locations involved in the project include: STMicroelectronics, Infineon Technologies, NXP Semiconductors, Chip Vision Design Systems AG, Gradient Design Automation Inc., MunEDA GmbH, Synopsis Inc., and IMEC, among others.