Tyndall to Lead Development of Nanotechnology for Energy-Efficient Automotive Electronics

March 14, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

Researchers at Tyndall National Institute in Cork, Ireland are leading an international project in advanced nanoelectronics which is aimed at maintaining Europe’s position as a world leader in innovative automotive power electronic systems for both conventional and electric cars. The 3-year PowerSwipe (Power Supply on Chip (PowerSoC) with Integrated Passives) project, with a budget of €5 million, is funded by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development in Information and Communications Technologies. The objective of the collaborative project is to develop miniaturized power management modules for efficient running of smart automotive electronic components using multi-core micro-controllers.

Prof. Cian Ó Mathúna, Tyndall National Institute and PowerSwipe project coordinator said “Europe is a global leader in automotive systems with competencies covering the full supply chain from the main OEMs (Audi, BMW, Daimler, Fiat, PSA, RSA, VW) to tier one suppliers (Bosch, Continental, MagnetiMarelli) to leading semiconductor companies (Infineon, ST). The PowerSwipe project is focused on innovating at the system level, rather than design/production at the component level, which is a strategic differentiator for the automotive industry in maintaining Europe’s leading position in this growing market.”

Today’s cars contain up to 70 electronic control units, using sophisticated silicon chips known as micro-controllers. Currently, these micro-controllers are supplied with a range of different voltages from power supplies which take up a lot of space and waste energy. The vision for automotive control units in 2020 is that these power supplies will be miniaturised and integrated directly with the micro-controller chip, thereby dramatically saving space and weight while at the same time reducing energy use, CO2 emissions and manufacturing costs of next generation automotive electronics systems.

Commenting on the project partnership, Prof. Ó Mathúna added: “The consortium has the ideal blend of know-how, skills and technologies to establish Europe as the leading global player, over the coming decade, by creating a competitive, European supply chain in power supply on chip platforms for complex System on Chip (SoC) applications. PowerSwipe will achieve key innovations and breakthroughs by developing new advanced component and circuit technologies in combination with methodologies and tools for design of fully integrated power management systems, which will become a key building block for advanced nano-electronic components and systems over the next decade.”

This concept of integrating the power supply with the silicon micro-controller chip is termed Power Supply on Chip (PwrSoC), a term coined by Prof. Ó Mathúna, which is now being used by the global power electronics industry to describe this emerging technology. The PwrSoC concept will deliver power system architectures and platforms which lend themselves to miniaturisation and integration of electronic power management systems with nanoCMOS System on Chip.

Prof. Ó Mathúna explained: “The PowerSwipe project will address a key roadblock for PowerSoC by, for the first time, miniaturising and integrating state-of-the-art, high density trench capacitor substrate technology, from IPDiA, with Tyndall’s novel thin film magnetics on silicon to deliver a multi-component LC (inductor-capacitor) interposer which will be combined, with the micro-controller chip, in a 3D stack, using Infineon’s embedded wafer level manufacturing process.”