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IISc tech to help wriggle out of chip shortage

In the background of a severe shortage of chips bugging the automotive industry, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and a partnering foundry have developed an indigenous technology platform for manufacturing semiconductors to be used for commercial and strategic applications.

The shortage was caused by a massive increase in demand for computers, mobile phones and other consumer electronics during the Covid pandemic when people shifted to working from home and through lockdowns. The demand had been such that it far surpassed the supplies.

The IISc team and its foundry partner under the IMPRINT programme of the Centre have now developed a basic technological platform that can boost production of automotive chips at a fraction of the cost compared to importing the technology.

They have been working on developing the Laterally Diffused MOS (LDMOS), which are high-voltage switches or transistors built into the automotive chips. These are found to be in the range of 10V to 80V with characteristics matching current industry offerings.

Automotive chips are different from the conventional processor chips used in devices such as smartphones and laptops. An automotive chip – which are also referred to as application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a microchip designed for a special application – needs to handle various tasks simultaneously, including instrumentation, sensing and control of various electro-mechanical parts, IISc researchers explained.

The electrical interface to these parts operates at higher voltages (5V-80V) compared to a processor chip, which requires a low voltage switch or transistor (0.9V-1.8V). However, to achieve 80V by importing technology would have cost tens of millions of dollars. The IISc-IMPRINT foundry collaborative effort augmented the baseline process and enabled the development of devices capable of operating at 80V, at a cost of less than $0.5 million.

Prof Mayank Shrivastava, of the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, IISc, who led the project, said “These LDMOS devices can now become standard offerings, which will help our foundry partner develop a range of very large scale integration (VLSI) products in-house. Besides, the technology/knowhow can be transferred to other semiconductor foundries to scale up the automotive process.” IISc tech may help automotive industry come out of chips shortage. NewsDeal

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