Mingoo Seok, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has won a highly respected National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for his project focused on computing chip design: “Addressing Deepening Variability Challenges for Next-Generation Margin-Free VLSI Computing Platform Design.” Over the last 40 years, researchers have made major advancements in semiconductor technology, with computing chips becoming the major workhorse for our information age. But while they want to continue to make further improvements, the research community and industry have recently observed a diminishing return on their research efforts.
“One of the main causes for this is the ever-growing variability in circuit performance within a chip, from chip to chip, and over the lifetime of the chip,” Seok says. “For example, even if two identically designed chips are manufactured, their performance can be significantly different due to limited manufacturing accuracy. While conventional design practices have simply discarded this variability in performance improvement, this discrepancy has now become too large to ignore.”
With demand increasing for ever-smaller devices to perform at ever-higher levels, it is becoming more difficult to manufacture chips that are identical at the nanoscale level. Seok is working to develop a way to make chips monitor variations and dynamically adapt to them. This way, even if each chip is manufactured with its own variation and experiences varying operating conditions, such as temperature, over time, it can still achieve the best level of its own performance.
“I’m really pleased to win an NSF CAREER award,” Seok adds. “The results of our research will have an impact across the spectrum of computing systems—high-performance, cloud, mobile, embedded, and ubiquitous—all of which are severely constrained by variability.”