Automotive chip reliability: A matter of design methods

April 17, 2015 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Up to 90% of all innovations today are generated through novel applications of semiconductors and electronic circuits. In the project Resilient Integrated Systems (RESIST), ten partners jointly strengthen the role of nanoelectronic components as the key to future developments. The research focuses on design processes for microchips and next-gen systems that will meet even higher requirements in terms of quality and reliability.

The goal of the RESIST activities is designing particularly reliable high-performance components that at the same time contribute to one of the automotive industry’s overarching aims: Reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emission.

To meet customer expectations and legislative specifications, future vehicle generations and their electronic components will have to exhibit extremely high resilience and reliability; at the same time their physical dimensions need to be reduced to enable design engineers to implement more functions and new applications. This expectations translates into the requirement of higher performance at lower power consumption. Carmakers – and by the way, also aircraft designers – continue to drive the transition from micro- to nanoelectronics. Shrinking these components however increases their vulnerability to operating and environmental stress. Suitable design methods are required to ensure that components function reliably even at extreme temperatures, for example.

For these reasons, the RESIST partners will research how such high-performance microelectronic and nanoelectronics components can be designed to achieve maximum robustness and reliability. The Design Automation division of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) is coordinating the research activities for new methods, chip designs, and systems. Members of the research team are chipmakers Infineon and NXP as well as Bosch, Volkswagen and chip design company Muneda GmbH. From the academic and research community, the University of Applied Sciences Reutlingen (where Bosch’s MEMS fab is located, the Munich Technical University and the university of Bremen are participating. And since the results of this projects are likewise relevant for the aviation industry, also the Airbus Goup Innovation research networks is involved.

To significantly increase the operational lifetime of electronic systems in vehicles and aircraft, the RESIST group will develop methods that enable engineers to predict the behaviour of chips and systems already in the design phase. These predictions are spanning the entire planned period of use then can be taken into account during the system design. This requires new development