Google and NIST Partner to Open Source Nanotechnology Testbed Wafers

Using an existing wafer design as a basis, Google will distribute nanotech test wafers to universities — and release the source too.

Gareth Halfacree
18 days agoHW101

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced a partnership with Google to create a wafer-scale testbed platform for nanotechnology research and development, to be built on SkyWater Technologies' open source SKY130 process node.

"We’re proud to announce Google’s cooperative research and development agreement with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop an open source testbed for nanotechnology research and development for American universities," Google's Ethan Mahintorabi, Johan Euphrosine, and Aaron Cunningham wrote in a joint announcement. "Together, NIST, Google, and the open source community will develop designs to facilitate research into both basic and applied science, including technology transfer into production with U.S. manufacturers."

The partnership will see Google working with NIST to migrate an existing planarized wafer design, work on which began back in October 2018, to an open source framework designed for manufacture on SkyWater Technologies' open source SKY130 130nm production development kit (PDK).

SkyWater is one of the two semiconductor fabrication companies, alongside GlobalFoundries, to take part in a Google-funded initiative, which allows free and open source silicon projects to have their designs produced as physical chips at zero cost. Initially, the Open MPW program was limited to SkyWater's SKY130 process node; earlier this year the companies announced the impending release of an open source PDK for a 90nm node, while GlobalFoundries released its own open source 180nm PDK.

The research wafers manufactured by SkyWater under the new initiative will be distributed available to universities, the companies have confirmed, and made available for direct purchase from SkyWater — but will also be made available under an open source license "in the coming months" as a means to improve access to semiconductor technology and drive research into new and emerging technologies that can easily be transitioned from the lab to the fab. This will, in turn, "greatly improve scientists' ability to move their technologies through the tech-transfer 'valley of death' and into practical use," claims Google.

More details are available in Google's announcement, while NIST will be holding a workshop on Integrated Circuits for Metrology later this month.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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