Week In Review: Design, Low Power

Apple pours $1.1B into European research center; Infineon buys GaN Systems; testing SiC; RISC-V; 64-qubit processor.


Apple plans to spend an additional €1 billion (~$1.1B) over the next six years to expand its Munich, Germany-based Silicon Design Centre, including the construction of a new research facility. “The expansion of our European Silicon Design Centre will enable an even closer collaboration between our more than 2,000 engineers in Bavaria working on breakthrough innovations, including custom silicon designs, power management chips, and future wireless technologies,” said Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies. This announcement comes on top of an earlier plan to invest €1 billion in the engineering hub.


Infineon Technologies will acquire GaN Systems in a $830 million deal. The company develops gallium nitride-based solutions for power conversion. “GaN technology is paving the way for more energy-efficient and CO2-saving solutions that support decarbonization. Adoption in applications like mobile charging, data center power supplies, residential solar inverters, and onboard chargers for electric vehicles is at the tipping point, leading to a dynamic market growth. The planned acquisition of GaN Systems will significantly accelerate our GaN roadmap,” said Jochen Hanebeck, CEO of Infineon. Jim Witham, CEO of GaN Systems, added, “Combining GaN Systems’ foundry corridors with Infineon’s in-house manufacturing capacity enables maximum growth capability to serve the accelerating adoption of GaN in a wide range of our target markets.”

Keysight Technologies and Analog Devices signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on 6G technology design and develop solutions in technology areas critical to multiple facets of wireless network performance including energy efficiency as well as resilient and secure wireless connectivity. The two companies are currently working on optimizing the design of open radio access network (O-RAN) radio units (RU) to reduce overall network energy consumption and enhance the performance of O-RUs to support higher data rate throughput levels. Keysight also will work with NTT Docomo and NTT on technologies for 6G, with the first effort focusing on new spectrum technologies for sub-terahertz frequencies and RF channel measurement and modeling for frequencies ranging from 92 GHz to 300 GHz.

Imperas Software and Synopsys are teaming up on RISC-V processor verification. The two companies are enabling Imperas’ RISC-V processor verification IP and architectural validation test suites to work with Synopsys’ functional simulation and debug tools to provide in a combined SystemVerilog environment for ‘lock-step-compare’ co-simulation between the RTL design under test and the Imperas RISC-V processor reference model. It also enables debug at the point of discrepancy to be explored with a transition between the Verilog RTL and the Imperas RISC-V reference model using Synopsys Verdi and the Imperas eGui.

Arteris IP and SiFive worked together to ensure interoperability and integration of the companies’ processor IP and interconnect IP. They released a reference platform that combines SiFive X280 processor IP and an Arteris Ncore cache coherent interconnect IP, which is available to run on the AMD Virtex UltraScale+ FPGA VCU118 Evaluation Kit. It also includes a mix of peripherals to facilitate software development on a RISC-V Vector-enabled platform.

Mixel’s MIPI D-PHY transmitter and MIPI CSI-2 controller IPs were integrated into Teledyne e2v’s Topaz family of 2MP and 1.5MP resolution industrial CMOS sensors that are now in mass production. The B&W and color 1,920 x 1,080 and 1,920 x 800-pixel format sensors target a range of applications including barcode scanning, contactless authentication, wearables, and industrial robotics.

Micross Components completed its acquisition of Infineon’s HiRel DC-DC converter business, including its hybrid and custom board-based power products. The business focuses on high reliability devices for extreme environments and applications such as space, defense, and aerospace.

IP, Products, Tools

Renesas Electronics introduced a cloud-based IoT system design platform that enables users to graphically build hardware and software simultaneously to quickly validate prototypes, reconfigure, and test product ideas. Users drag and drop device and subsystem blocks to build the hardware. After placing each block, users can generate, compile, and build software automatically. Renesas also added a range of product combinations that address multiple applications for electric vehicle charging, instrument cluster control, and low-voltage inverter functionality for traction motors.

The push toward disaggregation and customization in hardware is starting to be mirrored on the software side, where operating systems are becoming smaller and more targeted, supplemented with additional software that can be optimized for different functions.

There is a tenuous balance between the number of corners a design team must consider, the cost of analysis, and the margins they insert to deal with them, but that tradeoff is becoming a lot more difficult with increasing complexity.

Keysight Technologies announced enhanced 5G network visibility solutions for mobile service providers, including access to the encrypted 5G network core and 5G subscriber filtering including slice awareness along with control plane and user plane separation, subscriber-aware metadata, and observability specifically for low latency, high bandwidth 5G application needs at the network edge.

Infineon Technologies launched a new series of intelligent power modules that combines the iMOTION Motion Control Engine with a three-phase gate driver and 600 V/2 A or 600 V/4 A IGBTs in a DSO-22 package. The integrated motor controller series is suitable for motors in small and large household appliances as well as fans and pumps with typically 70 W output power. Meanwhile, Infineon and Pmdtechnologies introduced a new Time of Flight (ToF) VGA sensor with pixels that reach a quantum efficiency of 30% using front-side illumination (FSI) sensors. It targets applications such as under-screen face ID recognition in smartphones as well as AR/VR headsets, robotics, and IoT.

Data center CPU revenue declined 4.4% in 2022, according to Counterpoint Research. AMD saw big gains, reporting 62% growth in data center CPU revenue, bringing it to a 20% market share. Intel‘s market share dropped to 71%, while revenues from the segment fell 16%.

Avery Design Systems announced a new validation suite for Compute Express Link (CXL) system interoperability, validation, and performance benchmarking. It covers both pre-silicon virtual and post-silicon system platforms.

RISC-V processors, which until several years ago were considered auxiliary processors for specific functions, appear to be garnering support for an entirely different type of role — high-performance computing. But questions remain about the software ecosystem, or whether the chips, boards, and systems are reliable enough.

JEDEC published three new guidelines for reliability and testing of silicon carbide (SiC) MOSFETs. JEP194 establishes procedures for evaluation of reliability of gate oxide, including time-dependent dielectric breakdown (TDDB) testing and interpretation of results. JEP195 addresses the SiC MOSFET-specific phenomenon called gate switching instability and includes test and measurement routines to evaluate parametric drift and its effect on device performance. JEP192 describes the test method for gate charge of SiC MOSFETs that takes into account unique performance attributes of SiC MOSFETs.

Vtool debuted a RISC-V SoC with a modular and extendable RTL design, UVM/SV verification environment, and drivers and software examples for SoC development.

Quantum computing

QuantWare launched a new quantum processor with 64 fully controllable qubits. It uses a 3D technology that routes the connections vertically, which the company says makes it possible to scale superconducting quantum processors to thousands of qubits and implement error-correction schemes.

Intel debuted its Quantum Software Development Kit (SDK). The SDK is a full quantum computer in simulation that can also interface with Intel’s quantum hardware, including control chip and upcoming quantum spin qubit chip. The kit allows developers to program quantum algorithms in simulation using a programming interface based on C++. It also features a quantum runtime environment optimized for executing hybrid quantum-classical algorithms.

Pasqal created an emulator for neutral atoms quantum processors. The emulator mimics the hardware’s behavior in classical systems through the use of tensor networks for development of quantum algorithms and complex hybrid classical-quantum workflows.

Q-CTRL added AI capabilities to its quantum control infrastructure software, enabling automated system-level tuning and calibration of quantum hardware.

Fraunhofer IZM researchers are working on superconducting connections that can withstand cryogenic temperatures for quantum computers. The solder contacts use indium and measure ten micrometers in thickness. The group is also working on extremely low-loss niobium connectors.


Accellera established an annual scholarship for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science students in honor of Stan Krolikoski. The $1,500 scholarship will be awarded each year to one undergraduate student enrolled in an electrical engineering and/or computer science program.

Phil Moorby was honored posthumously with the Accellera 2023 Technical Excellence Award. “Phil Moorby invented and evolved the Verilog language, which has become the mainstay for the design of devices we all use every day,” stated Martin Barnasconi, Accellera Technical Committee Chair. “He was a mentor to SystemVerilog developers around the globe and his technical contributions and dedication to the industry have left an overarching impact that is beyond measure.”

Research notes

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland researchers suggest that the environmental impact of flexible electronics manufacturing could be reduced by 86% when additive printing methods are used.

Hokkaido University researchers developed a solid-state electrochemical thermal transistor, a device that can be used to control heat flow with electrical signals. The team constructed their thermal transistor on a yttrium oxide-stabilized zirconium oxide base, which also functioned as the switching material, and used strontium cobalt oxide as the active material. Platinum electrodes were used to supply the power required to control the transistor.

Researchers from the University of the West of England and Italy’s Institute of Materials for Electronic and Magnetism tested whether kombucha would make a good circuit board. The team grew the bacteria and yeast culture found in the tea then dried them out into mats. The resulting flexible mats are a cellulose-based hydrogel onto which the team was able to print circuits onto the mats using conductive polymers and attach a functional LED. It remained functional after repeated bending, stretching, and heating.

Upcoming events

  • International Semiconductor Executive Summit, March 7 – 8
  • Wide-Bandgap Developer Forum, March 9
  • International Symposium on Physical Design (ISPD), March 26 – 29
  • MEMCon 2023, March 28 – 29
  • SNUG Silicon Valley, March 29 – 30

Further reading

Check out the latest Low Power-High Performance and Systems & Design newsletters for these highlights and more:

  • Special Report — Taming Corner Explosion In Complex Chips
  • Is RISC-V Ready For Supercomputing?
  • Disaggregating And Extending Operating Systems
  • Chiplets Taking Root As Silicon-Proven Hard IP
  • Tech Talk — Where Power Is Spent In HBM
  • Leveraging Data To Improve Productivity
  • Dealing With Performance Bottlenecks In SoCs
  • Will AI Take My Job?

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