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Home Technology News CEA-Leti and the Silicon Valleys of Grenoble, France

CEA-Leti and the Silicon Valleys of Grenoble, France


CEA-Leti is without doubt one of the world’s prime 5 semiconductor analysis expertise organisations (RTOs), non-profit organisations that function intermediaries between analysis institutes and industrial gamers. RTOs work carefully with pure analysis institutes to determine promising improvements, and so they work carefully with industrial companions to develop prototypes and demonstrators that put together these improvements for mass manufacturing.  

RTOs additionally cooperate with a big selection of public actors to assist develop methods for technological improvement inside a given nation. In Europe, there are two different RTOs on the planet’s prime 5: Imec in Belgium, and Fraunhofer in Germany. There are a number of different smaller ones in Europe, together with VTT in Finland and Tecnalia in Spain.  

“CEA-Leti is a part of an even bigger organisation – CEA, the French Fee for Different Energies and Atomic Power,” stated Jean-René Lèquepeys, deputy director and CTO at CEA-Leti. “We’re an utilized analysis laboratory, making the hyperlink with elementary analysis. We collaborate carefully with the basic analysis division inside CEA, in addition to with different analysis institutes outdoors of CEA, to discover novel paths for analysis. We take pure analysis and switch it to trade in good situation.

“We now have a really sturdy partnership with STMicroelectronics for a wide range of tasks. Two different sturdy partnerships are with Soitec for supplies, and with Lynred for cooled and uncooled infrared detectors. These three companions are within the Grenoble space. We additionally work with a wide range of giant corporations – together with Intel, Schneider, Siemens, Valeo, Renault and among the GAFAM corporations [Google (Alphabet), Apple, Facebook (Meta), Amazon, Microsoft], with whom we’ve got confidential partnerships. And, in fact, we assist our startup corporations – 74 startups have spun out of CEA-Leti up to now.”

Lèquepeys added: “Whereas not as identified to most of the people as Silicon Valley, Grenoble has been a hotspot for microelectronics and ‘Extra-than-Moore’ applied sciences for fairly a very long time. 

“CEA-Leti works with corporations unfold throughout the three valleys round Grenoble. One valley is a hotbed for microelectronics, one other is residence to innovation in imagery techniques, and the third valley is devoted to show applied sciences.”

Listed here are Lèquepeys’ solutions to questions from Laptop Weekly:

Are you able to present an instance of how RTOs work with trade? 

Lèquepeys: A great instance of the position RTOs play is the way in which during which CEA-Leti developed totally depleted silicon on insulator (FD-SOI) expertise and transferred it to Samsung, STMicroelectronics and GlobalFoundries for manufacturing.  

FD-SOI makes use of an ultra-thin layer of insulator that sits on prime of the bottom silicon. The transistor channel is a silicon layer that may be very skinny and due to this fact requires no doping – therefore the time period “totally depleted”. FD-SOI provides a superb compromise between pure computing energy and discount of energy consumption – 40% much less then with conventional approaches. It really works very effectively as a constructing block for analog and radio frequency functions.  

One other benefit of FD-SOI is that we’ve got the aptitude to have a again bias to place a gate beneath the transistor. The voltage threshold of the transistors may be shifted by making use of voltage to the gate. 

This makes it potential to spice up the efficiency of the transistors when wanted. You’ll be able to nonetheless take the transistors all the way down to 0.4V whenever you don’t want enormous energy computing, and whenever you wish to optimise the facility consumption. 

So this can be a expertise that gives an excellent trade-off between energy, vitality consumption and price. It’s easier than FinFET expertise when it comes to variety of lithography steps required. FinFET is best for pure computing and for density and is effectively tailored to large CPUs or large GPUs, however not effectively tailored to analog and RF chips.  

One instance of the growing use of FD-SOI is that Qualcomm, Mediatek and GlobalFoundries began building radio frequency (RF) front-end solutions for 5G phones, primarily based on FD-SOI expertise.

Are you able to give a couple of examples of scorching areas of utilized analysis at CEA-Leti? 

Lèquepeys: The primary is the “chiplet” strategy. As an alternative of designing a really giant circuit in a single node, we design a modular structure primarily based on smaller chips. By doing that,we acquire a number of large benefits. 

The primary is in value. The yield of the circuit decreases with the scale. This provides efficiency features as a result of you may select the very best expertise node for a given perform. For instance, we used a really superior node for processor capabilities, and a extra relaxed node for the analog and the radio frequency capabilities. We acquire in flexibility by utilizing a extremely programmable circuit, or FPGA [field programmable gate array] within the chiplets. 

Chiplets can use scalable massively parallel architectures. We demonstrated the benefits of this approach by creating prototypes of chiplets two or three years in the past, every with 16 cores, so 96 cores in complete.  

The chiplets have been developed utilizing 28nm FD-SOI. The ensuing prototypes had the computing energy of 10 laptops, operating greater than 220 Giga operations per second in a really small silicon space– lower than 200mm2.  

Due to this very modular strategy exploiting 3D expertise, the vitality effectivity acquire is of an element larger than 10. For this strategy to be broadly used, it’s essential to develop open communications requirements to make sure communication between chiplets and to have a complete library of chiplets optimised for normal capabilities.  

A committee to introduce standardisation of communication between chiplets was launched by large US corporations – together with Intel, which put numerous emphasis on superior packaging options, that are options primarily based on chiplets.

What’s one other scorching space of utilized analysis you might be engaged on? 

Lèquepeys: The second is computing primarily based on neuromorphic chips. The human mind has a really excessive computing effectivity for functions like recognising varieties or faces. It performs these operations utilizing solely 20W. One other instance is the bee’s mind, which does little or no computing, however continues to be very environment friendly in contrast with built-in circuits. 

Organic techniques have develop into a supply of inspiration for the semiconductor trade. We tried to imitate the behaviour of the mind, with synapses and neurons, utilizing non-volatile reminiscences and transistors to succeed in the identical order of vitality effectivity. 

We first launched a neuromorphic chip known as Spirit. It was a demonstrator, utilizing fairly outdated expertise – 130nm CMOS expertise, with built-in non-volatile reminiscences. 

We had solely 10 neurons and 144 synapsis on this demonstrator – and the circuit consumed solely 3.6 picojoules per synaptic occasion. That’s round eight or 10 lower than the Intel demonstrator and 10 instances lower than the IBM demonstrator. The computational job we had this chip carry out was to recognise handwritten digits. 

We disclosed this chip at an IBM convention in 2019. Now we’re getting ready the following era, which will likely be a scaled-up model of this strategy. We plan to have greater than 100,000 neurons on a chip and greater than 75 million synapses.  

This can be a promising space, with a possible for enormous features in energy effectivity.

Any extra scorching areas of utilized analysis that CEA-Leti is concerned in that you could speak about? 

Lèquepeys: Sure, and it’s a extremely popular subject – quantum computing. There are a number of approaches which are already getting used all over the world. These are photons, superconductors, silicon expertise, chilly atoms and trapped ions. If we evaluate these in opposition to a set of goal standards, no expertise has come out as the general winner but. 

When it comes to variety of entangled qubits, which is a crucial criterion, photons, superconductors and chilly atoms are within the lead. However scaling these approaches up can be troublesome within the close to future. 

At CEA-Leti, we’ve got chosen to make qubits on silicon. We expect that is probably the most promising answer when it comes to with the ability to scale up. That’s for 2 causes. First, the maturity of the electronics trade means we’ve got the gear and processes wanted to scale up. And second, the small measurement of the qubits constructed on silicon means you may put numerous them in a small space.  

A qubit on silicon is one million instances smaller than qubits utilizing superconductors and photons – and that can supply the power to place thousands and thousands of qubits on a single chip. Nevertheless, at the moment, this expertise is lagging when it comes to the variety of qubits which were put in a single laptop up to now. 

At CEA-Leti, we’ve got a really aggressive roadmap. We plan to have six entangled qubits by the top of this yr, suitable with an industrial pilot line, primarily based on FD-SOI. We count on to succeed in 100 qubits in 2024 and a quantum processor by 2030, with a whole software program stack and all of the satisfactory error-correcting codes. That is considered one of our very excessive priorities, and large quantities of assets have been mobilised to make this occur. 

We plan to launch a startup firm on this space, in all probability on the finish of this yr or the start of subsequent yr. 

For our work on quantum computing, we’ve got solid strategic partnerships with CNRS and INRIA, two mature analysis centres in France. We’re financially supported by the national programme launched by [French president] Emmanuel Macron and we additionally get funding from the European tasks we coordinate.  

Talking of Europe, the place do you suppose Europe’s strengths lie in microelectronics? 

Lèquepeys: Whereas Europe produces solely 10% of the world’s semiconductor elements, it’s in a powerful place for circuits within the automotive market, with a 36% market share, due to STMicroelectronics, Infineon and NXP. Europe can be sturdy in Business 4.0 and powerful in wi-fi connectivity.  

Europe can be main the facility units market, with Infineon and STMicroelectronics, and in addition has sturdy market share in sensors, with the 2 world leaders, Bosch and STMicroelectronics.  

Europe can be within the main place for microcontrollers, with STMicroelectronics, Infineon and NXP – and in safe units. All of that is round good playing cards and {hardware} safety modules for cost.  

We’re additionally within the main place for the standardisation of telecommunication techniques, from 2G as much as 6G techniques, which is already being deliberate.

Why is Grenoble a superb place for all this work?

Lèquepeys: Grenoble is an efficient place for microelectronics. It’s a younger and dynamic metropolis with engineering faculties and a well-established college. What’s essential is the trio of training, analysis and trade working in shut collaboration to develop future merchandise. And by the way in which, Grenoble was elected European Green Capital for 2022. 

Grenoble welcomes the World Electronic Forum [WEF] in 2022. With the sturdy assist of CEA, CEA-Leti is working with INRIA to organise the following version of the WEF, which will likely be held in Grenoble from 5-7 October 2022. The WEF is an annual international occasion by invitation, restricted to 150 individuals in complete, which brings collectively the biggest digital and digital industrial affiliation, in addition to industrial gamers and policy-makers. 

The 2022 version will likely be centered on a proposal by CEA-Leti on sustainable digital electronics in response to a number of environmental, geopolitical and well being crises, each in developed and rising nations. It will likely be a superb hotspot for us, and a great way to indicate off Grenoble in key areas for international technological innovation, each in {hardware} and software program. 

Greater than 25 startups, together with a number of from CEA-Leti, will exhibit through the WEF occasion, and a really sturdy presence is predicted from main nations within the area of electronics – the US, Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan. We may even have nations with ambitions on this space – India, Center East, Southeast Asian nations. 

Excessive-level officers within the European Fee have been invited to attend, together with Thierry Breton, and France’s minister of trade, Bruno Le Maire, has been invited to inaugurate the occasion.



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