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Glasgow opens $10m heterogeneous design center

Using UK government funding to combat skills shortages in electronic design, the Scottish University is putting material convergence firmly on its academic agenda.

Glasgow University has won a £5 million ($10.2 million) grant that has added design, test and measurement capabilities to its existing electronic engineering and compound semiconductor-silicon integration efforts.

“Our particular angle on this is electronics design for heterogeneous systems,” said David Cumming, director of the Electronics Design Centre (EDC). “Silicon chips or III-V chips, but also integrating that to other areas of activity. Of course, design is integral to that.”

The EDC, which opened in September, features a large design office and approximately 400 square meters of refurbished laboratory space. The center was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with supplementary support coming from the Scottish Funding Council.

The grant aims to address what the EPSRC perceives to be a weakness in electronic design in the UK, to which end the university has set up a focused MSc course at the center.

For Glasgow, it also provides an opportunity to further enhance the status in semiconductor integration that it already enjoys through its James Watt Nanofabrication Centre, which opened in March.

Cumming told compoundsemiconductor.net that the EDC will be used to design circuits that can be made in external foundries or in the University s own cleanrooms. The resulting devices may then be tested back at the EDC and iteratively redesigned as necessary.

The EDC will provide design capabilities for up to 40 students, researchers and academics, including high-level computing and electronic design software from the likes of Cadence.

Other than an on-wafer prober from Cascade Technologies, the test and measurement lab benefits from a tie-up with Agilent that provides the majority of its equipment. This extensive deployment of Agilent tools at the EDC means that Glasgow hopes it will become a reference site to demonstrate their use.

Agilent is also looking at potentially integrating high-frequency devices designed and developed at Glasgow into its own products in the future, Cummings said.

Within the funding is an allowance for the support of three new academics for five years, after which the University of Glasgow will take responsibility for their support. One of these academics, Khaled Elgaid, comes with strong III-V experience in design and manufacture of MMICs and, according to his profile, worked on development of the second-fastest transistor in the world.

“What he s interested in is imaging applications and communications applications,” Cummings explained. “He s working on very high frequency broadband communication, 94 GHz and above, and THz imaging microwave technologies, for example MMICs to go in whole-body scanners.”

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