Two UC Berkeley researchers have created a novel way to test and validate semiconductor chips, an innovation that earned them the Technical Excellence Award from the Semiconductor Research Corporation.
Campus electrical engineers Alan Mishchenko and Robert Brayton combined two distinct fields of semiconductor study — synthesis and verification — that had previously been regarded as completely separate, which could allow researchers to push the boundaries of the semiconductor industry while working more efficiently.
“It used to be separated in the past, (but) we have shown that it is better, for both human productivity and quality of results, to keep it together,” Mishchenko, an associate research engineer, said in an email.
According to Mishchenko, this “synergy of synthesis and verification” will allow scientists to use the progress made in one field to enhance research and facilitate work in the other. For example, he said, if strong verification solutions are available, engineers in the future will be willing to take more ambitious strides in synthesis, knowing that they can verify any questionable or surprising result.
Synthesis is a way to derive and optimize descriptions of new digital devices. Verification is simply a way to show that those descriptions are correct.
While their research — which is publicly available on the team’s webpage — represents small progress in the vast field of semiconductors, it could have an immediate effect on the industry. Companies can freely download it to incorporate Mishchenko and Brayton’s methods into their work.
The award will be presented in September at the corporation’s annual TECHCON technology conference in Austin, Texas.