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UAE Enters New Era in Advanced Semiconductor Technology

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 20 February, 2014 – Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, today announced that it has become one of only a few academic institutions worldwide providing cutting-edge semiconductor designs for manufacturing — what is known in the industry as a ‘tape-out.’

The ‘tape-out’ achievement was made possible through Masdar Institute’s design-enablement and fabrication collaboration with GLOBALFOUNDRIES, the world’s second largest semiconductor foundry company, wholly-owned by Mubadala’s Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC).

Produced on what is called ‘GLOBALFOUNDRIES 28nm SLP low-power, bulk CMOS technology,’ the semiconductor technology designed by Masdar Institute will allow researchers to collect measurements that will ultimately contribute to reduced semiconductor power consumption and increased speed. Masdar Institute is expected to take delivery of the fabricated chip by the end of March 2014.

Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute, said: “The successful tape-out by our students has enabled the UAE to enter a new era in advanced semiconductor technology research and innovation. The consistent support of the UAE leadership has strengthened our capabilities to expand our innovative activities. We expect our students to achieve more milestones in the future.”

Geoffrey Akiki, General Manager, GLOBALFOUNDRIES Abu Dhabi said: “This tape-out shows the unique strength of our partnership with the U.A.E. In the short period since the start of our cooperation with Masdar Institute, we have achieved another joint success on our way to spur the continued development of Abu Dhabi as an innovation technology hub. Aggressive process scaling poses unique challenges in 28nm technology not found in larger technology nodes, and we are especially impressed by the work of the Masdar Institute researchers in reaching this point.”

Dr Ibrahim Elfadel, Head of Masdar Institute’s Center for Microelectronics (iMicro), explained: “The goal of the chip is to measure the statistical dependence of circuit performance on process variations. The collected measurements will be used to provide integrated-circuit designers and semi-conductor process engineers with guidelines for optimizing circuit design and process parameters to achieve specific targets in power consumption and circuit speed.

“Such guidelines will be very valuable in the manufacturing of ultra-lower power chips that can be used in a variety of applications, including mobile and implementable medical devices, continuous environmental monitoring and consumer electronics. We are grateful to the GLOBALFOUNDRIES team for providing the Masdar Institute students, staff and faculty with the design environment and technology access that have enabled us to reach this important milestone for the UAE.”

The chip design was the subject of a conference paper presented at the 20th IEEE Conference on Electronic Circuits and Systems, held in Abu Dhabi, from 8-11 December, 2013.

Temesghen Hebte and Yue Xu, both students from Masdar Institute’s Microsystems Engineering program, have been conducting design work at GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ Abu Dhabi offices for over a year, working closely with Dr. Elfadel and Dr. Ayman Shabra. More recently, a group of UAE national students from the Microsystems Engineering program visited the premises of GLOBALFOUNDRIES Abu Dhabi to learn about the extent of semiconductor activities currently underway in the UAE.

In June 2013, students from Masdar Institute completed a semiconductor chip design using GLOBALFOUNDRIES 65nm process, the first GLOBALFOUNDRIES tape-out from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Masdar Institute was the first academic institution within the MENA region to utilize the GLOBALFOUNDRIES PDK to design semiconductor circuits from scratch.

Serving as a key pillar of innovation and human capital, Masdar Institute remains fundamental to Masdar’s core objectives of developing Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy and finding solutions to humanity’s toughest challenges such as climate change.

Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.  With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.

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