Michigan Tech News

Zhuo Feng Gets CAREER Award to Develop New Tools for Nanoscale Computer Chip Design

Phone: 906-487-2354

By Marcia Goodrich


Last Modified 1:53 PM, August 7, 2014

Nanoscale integrated circuits are so complex that software used by computer chip designers hasn't kept up with the hardware. Zhuo Feng hopes to remedy that with a $400,000 NSF CAREER Award. Wikimedia Commons image by Antoinebercovici

August 5, 2014—

Back in the day, actual human beings wired computer circuitry by hand. Then along came integrated circuits, and now the technology is so advanced that tens of billions of transistors can be put on a single chip no bigger than a dime.

The complexity of these nanoscale integrated circuits makes it difficult to make the most of their design, says Zhuo Feng, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University. That’s because software used to design computer chips hasn’t kept pace with the hardware in these emerging computing systems.

These heterogeneous systems incorporate two different kinds of processors:  traditional central processing units, or CPUs, and newer graphics processing units, or GPUs. Each brings something to the party. CPUs are flexible, and GPUs are blindingly fast.

Now, with the help of a five-year, $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation, Feng aims to develop new CAD algorithms that will help chip designers leverage these powerful heterogeneous computing platforms to do their job better and in a fraction of the time.

“We are trying to develop software that will enable chip designers to automate the design procedures more efficiently than ever before,” said Feng. “To this end, we will develop efficient CAD algorithms to precisely model and simulate an integrated circuit system with billions of transistors, and, more importantly, verify the whole integrated system before the chip is manufactured.”

Their new algorithms will let chip designers finish their tasks more quickly, he said. “That will save a lot of time, and eventually that is money,” said Feng. “And if you can finish the simulation job in one hour, compared to the old tools that can take a week, you can also save a lot of energy, and that is money too.”

The title of Feng’s proposal is “CAREER: Leverage Heterogeneous Manycore Systems for Scalable Modeling, Simulation and Verification of Nanoscale Integrated Circuits.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.