Ferric Semi Aims to Integrate DC-DCs Inside Microprocessors

November 12, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

Ferric Semiconductor was founded by a team of engineers and materials scientists out of Columbia University, with the goal to develop integrated inductors in CMOS technology for use in advanced on-chip voltage regulators. The company's objective is to commercialize power converters utilizing inductors with precisely engineered laminations of high-permeability magnetic material.

This is expected to enable a significant improvement in power converter current density and subsequently enable power supplies for microprocessors and systems on chip (SoCs) to be down converted in the same package, or even on the same die. This new class of integrated voltage regulators (IVRs) will provide as much as 20% reduction in total power consumption for digital ICs by reducing resistive losses and enabling improved power management techniques.

Voltage regulators utilizing integrated magnetic thin-film inductors are expected to have cost and performance advantages over the other voltage regulator products that are commercially available. Therefore this technology is expected to have a sizeable impact on the $10 billion worldwide voltage regulator market. Furthermore, the integration of magnetic materials with CMOS will facilitate advances in other magnetic based systems, such as magnetic filters, sensors and imagers. Likewise, the experience gained from commercializing a magnetic material process module with CMOS technology will lower the technological barriers for other forms of heterogeneous integration.

Professor Ken Shepard serves as a Technical Advisor to Ferric, and is Chairman of the Board of Directors for Ferric Semiconductor, Inc. Dr. Shepard brings with him more than 20 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. Before joining Columbia, he worked for five years as a Research Staff Member and Manager at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in the VLSI Department. From 1997- 2001, Prof. Shepard was the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of CadMOS Design Technology, an electronic design automation (EDA) start-up which commercialized technology developed by Prof. Shepard in the area of noise analysis in digital integrated circuits. From 2001 to 2004, Prof. Shepard consulted for Cadence at the level of Senior Architect.

Noah Sturcken, Ferric's Chief Technology Officer, is a graduating Ph. D. student of Prof. Shepard and has been the instrumental force in both the technology development and circuit design of this project. Mr. Sturcken has worked at the AMD Research and Development Lab (RADL) as well as the Digital/Analog design team. He is the first author on five publications and the lead inventor on three patents that have resulted from this Ph. D. work at Columbia University.

The company's broader vision is to enable a reduction in power consumption for all digital computing platforms, ranging from smart-phones to datacenters. The total energy savings potential for this new class of technology is estimated at 15 billion kWh within the United States alone, this is equivalent to roughly 10 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. This technology will also significantly reduce the footprint for digital ICs enabling a significant reduction in form-factor for all classes of computing platforms.