Week In Review: Design, Low Power

UK plans to spend $3B on quantum computing, plus $1.2B on an exascale system; energy-harvesting NFC tag controller; RISC-V software development; silicon quantum processor spinout.


The UK government published its National Quantum Strategy, which outlines the plan to invest £2.5 billion (~$3.0 billion) over the next 10 years into quantum technology, including computing, sensing, timing, imaging, and networking. “We will develop UK strengths across different hardware platforms, software, and components, and reinforce our capabilities throughout the supply chains. Although international collaboration is an essential part of our approach, it is not in the UK’s interests to rely purely on others for access to these critical technologies,” the report states. The money will fund research hubs, training and talent programs, procurement of quantum technologies for public use, and collaboration between academia, industry, and government.

The program also will support quantum businesses, moving technologies from research to commercialization, and attract “significant additional private investment” in UK quantum startups.

The UK is already hotbed for quantum startup activity and investment. In February, Quantum Motion raised £42 million (~$50.5 million) to build quantum processors based on silicon spin qubits with a fault-tolerant architecture. This was the largest single investment round in a UK quantum company reported to date. Oxford Quantum Circuits, the previous holder of that crown, also added to its financing. More details are available in February’s startup funding report.

In addition, the UK plans to mark £1 billion (~$1.2 billion) of government funding for building an exascale supercomputer for scientific AI workloads. That funding also will support AI research.

Companies allocate tremendous capital and operating expenditures for data center cooling and maintenance, spurring a range of approaches to cooling. While no one can claim the problem is solved, there are refinements to older approaches, along with a few novel ideas that give some hope of better balancing demands.

Products & tools

Infineon Technologies expanded its product portfolio of NFC tag-side controllers, adding a new single-chip solution that supports a dual power supply function. It can operate in a passive mode (battery-free) based on energy harvesting from a mobile phone’s NFC field, or in a battery-powered mode, operating as a self-contained sensing node via a 3 to 3.3 V external power supply. Based on an Arm Cortex-M0 microcontroller, it integrates an NFC front-end motor control driver and sensing unit with an I2V converter and temperature sensor. Potential applications range from medical patches and disposable point-of-case testers to data loggers, smart thermostats, and sensor inlays.

Utilizing data effectively can pay big dividends for design teams. The chasm between increasing design complexity and a talent shortage is growing, and data is an essential factor in closing that gap. But engineering teams need to understand what they are collecting data for and what type of data they need.

Renesas Electronics expanded its 32-bit RA family of microcontrollers with two new groups based on the Arm Cortex-M33 core with Arm TrustZone technology. The MCUs have 128 Kbyte and 256 Kbyte flash options and 40 Kbytes of SRAM, as well as connectivity options such as on-chip CAN FD, USB, QSPI, SSI, and I3C interfaces for applications requiring high performance in small packages such as sensing, gaming, wearables, and appliances.

Keysight Technologies introduced a real-time spectrum analysis (RTSA) solution, which enables up to 2 GHz RTSA bandwidth for use with the Keysight N9042B UXA Signal Analyzer. The software-based RTSA solution monitors satellite signals and interference to improve quality of service. It supports optical data interface (ODI) streaming up to 2 GHz. Additionally, the Keysight Open RAN Architect (KORA) solutions have been added to CableLabs’ 5G Lab to validate the interoperability of open radio access network (O-RAN) components during the 2023 5G Challenge, sponsored by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Defense.

With every new node there are additional physical effects that must be considered, but not all of them are of the same level of criticality. One that is being mentioned more frequently is self-heating – and it will only get worse with smaller devices and new packaging technologies.

Signature IP Corporation emerged from stealth mode. The startup provides a platform for flexible configuration of network-on-chip (NoC). It says future products will provide a platform-based approach to SoC development which is physically-aware and NoC-aware.

Texas Instruments added a portfolio of scalable Arm Cortex-M0+ microcontrollers with a wide range of computing, pinout, memory, and integrated analog options.


Imperas Software, MIPS, and Ashling are collaborating to support RISC-V software development for advanced processor applications. Targeting the MIPS eVocore P8700 RISC-V Multiprocessor, Imperas is supplying Reference Models provide a programmer’s view of the hardware running full application-class workloads and operating systems, while the Ashling tools provide the toolchain support including an IDE, compiler, and software debugger.

The functional safety edition of IAR’s Embedded Workbench for RISC-V now supports the off-the-shelf version of the Codasip L31 core as well as the dual-core lockstep reference architecture, which implements two L31 cores in a fault detection subsystem. The combination is targeted at low-power embedded automotive applications.

Infineon Technologies and Apex.AI integrated Apex.AI’s software development kit and Infineon’s AURIX TC3X microcontroller to enable faster integration of safety-critical automotive functions into future vehicles. Additionally, Continental is using Infineon’s AURIX TC4 microcontroller for its Zone Control Units, which serve as an interface between a vehicle’s central high-performance computers and sensors/actuators for complex software infrastructure.

Winbond Electronics and STMicroelectronics are optimizing integration and performance of Winbond’s specialty memory ICs with ST’s STM32 microcontrollers and microprocessors.

Quantum computing

SEEQC introduced a family of high speed, energy-efficient Single Flux Quantum (SFQ) digital chips capable of running all core qubit controller functions of a quantum computer at the same cryogenic temperature as the qubits. The chips are also fully integrated with qubits in multi-chip modules. The architecture uses digital multiplexing technology which can control an 8 qubit module with only 2 wires.

The European Innovation Council (EIC) Pathfinder program awarded €4.0 million (~$4.2 million) to a project that will research how to develop a massively scalable quantum computer by connecting distributed quantum cores via quantum-coherent qubit state transfer links and wireless interconnects. The consortium, called QUADRATURE, is comprised of Equal1, Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Delft University of Technology, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Technical University of Catalunya, Technical University of Valencia, University College Dublin, University of Catania, and University of Siegen.


CEA-Leti developed a transistor inspired by human synapses. The analog transistor has about 50 possible states, with a channel made up of titanium oxide through which lithium ions flow. According to their number, they modulate the channel’s electronic conductivity. According to CEA-Leti, it only consumes 1 femtoJoule/square micron, the same amount as a synapse. Plus, it is manufactured on 200mm wafers with CMOS compatible processes.

A team from the University of Michigan demonstrated a reconfigurable high electron mobility transistor that uses a thin ferroelectric semiconductor. “By realizing this new type of transistor, it opens up the possibility for integrating multifunctional devices, such as reconfigurable transistors, filters and resonators, on the same platform—all while operating at very high frequency and high power,” said Zetian Mi, U-M professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Researchers from Chung-Ang University created flexible supercapacitors comprising multi-layer electrodes vertically integrated within a single sheet of paper, a design the team says overcomes the problems associated with stacked sheets (such as increased device size and resistance) while retaining the inherent advantages of a paper-based substrate.

Upcoming events

  • International Symposium on Physical Design (ISPD), March 26 – 29
  • MEMCon 2023, March 28 – 29 in Mountain View, CA
  • The Impact of New Regulations on the Semiconductor Design Ecosystem, March 28 in San Jose, CA
  • SNUG Silicon Valley, March 29 – 30 in Santa Clara, CA
  • Design, Automation and Test in Europe Conference (DATE 2023), April 17 – April 19 in Antwerp, Belgium

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
  • Leveraging Data To Improve Productivity
  • Dealing With Performance Bottlenecks In SoCs
  • Will AI Take My Job?
  • Uneven Circuit Aging Becoming A Bigger Problem
  • What Makes RISC-V Verification Unique?
  • MIPI’s Focus Widens

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