FORTE: Functional Oxide Reconfigurable Technologies
Underpinning research related to FORTE in research topics:
Current Project (2018-2023)
Research Team: Lieuwe Leene, Timothy Constandinou, Peilong Feng
Collaborators: Themis Prodromakis (FORTE lead), Christos Papavassilliou (CAS Group, EEE) and Dirk Koch, Piotr Dudek (Manchester)
Funding: EPSRC Programme Grant EP/R024642/1
Our vision is to rejuvenate modern electronics by developing and enabling a new approach to electronic systems where reconfigurability, scalability, operational flexibility/resilience, power efficiency and cost-effectiveness are combined. This vision will be delivered by breaking out of the large, but comprehensively explored realm of CMOS technology upon which virtually all modern electronics are based; consumer and non-consumer alike.
Introducing novel nanoelectronic components never before used in the technology we all carry around in our phones will introduce new capabilities that have thus far been unattainable due to the limitations of current hardware technology. The resulting improved capability of engineers to squeeze more computational power in ever smaller areas at ever lower power costs will unlock possibilities such as: a) truly pervasive Internet-of-Things computing where minute sensors consuming nearly zero power monitor the world around us and inform our choices, b) truly smart implants that within extremely limited power and size budgets can not only interface with the brain, but also process that data in a meaningful way and send the results either onwards to e.g. a doctor, or even feed it back into the brain for further processing, c) radiation-resistant electronics to be deployed in satellites and aeroplanes, civilian and military and improve communication reliability while driving down maintenance costs.
In building this vision, our project will deliver a series of scientific objectives:
- Developing the foundations of nanoelectronic component (memristive) technologies to the point where it becomes a commercially available option for the general industrial designer;
- Setting up a fully supported (models, tools, design rules etc.), end-to-end design infrastructure so that anyone with access to industry standard software used for electronics design today may utilise memristive technology in their design;
- Introduce a new design paradigm where memristive technologies are intimately integrated with traditional analogue and digital circuitry in order to deliver performance unattainable by any in isolation. This includes designing primitive hardware modules that can act as building-blocks for higher level designs, allowing engineers to construct large-scale systems without worrying about the intricate details of memristor operation;
- Actively foster a community of users, encouraged to explore potential commercial impact and further scientific development stemming from our work whilst feeding back into the project through e.g. collaborations;
We intend to start early by beginning to commercialise the most mature aspects of the programme as soon as possible. Vast translational opportunities exist via:
- The direct commercialisation of project outcomes, specifically developed applications (prove in lab, then obtain venture capital funding and commercialise);
- The generation of novel electronic designs (IP / design bureau model; making the UK a global design centre for memristive technology-based electronics);
- Selling tools developed to help accelerate the project (instrumentation, CAD and supporting software).
Our role in FORTE is firstly supporting the technology integration through customisation of electronic design automation (EDA) CAD to include ReRAM capability within design tools (e.g. modelling, schematic entry, simulation, layout design, physical verification). These will then be used to design basic building blocks that contain ReRAM devices (e.g. memory elements, read/write instrumentation, readout circuits) in addition to macros and tools for generating memory arrays. The availability of an end-to-end design methodology will then allow us to exploit the technology for new circuits and applications. From a circuit perspective we will investigate continuous-time discrete value processing based on oscillator structures or level-crossing converters. This allows “analogue” processing with high dynamic range in a highly integrated manner. From an applications perspective, our work will target two specific areas: novel research tools for neuroscience, and active implantable medical device. Here, the availability of “above circuit”, back-end integrated ReRAM will enable hybrid/distributed processing/memory architectures, providing an order of magnitude improvement in both power consumption and integration density.