NSF and SRC to fund research to create failure-resistant systems and circuits

Leaders of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) today announced 18 new projects funded through a joint initiative to address research challenges in the design of failure-resistant circuits and systems.

failture resistant systems
Failure Resistant Systems

Credit: Subhasish Mitra, Stanford University

The three-year, $6 million collaborative program will support research being conducted by 29 faculty members at 18 U.S. universities. Their work focuses on a variety of aspects of resilient circuit and system design for future computing applications.

Miniaturized electronics form parts of today’s pervasive and increasingly efficient and complex electronic systems. Common examples include communication devices such as cell-phones and personal digital assistants (so-called PDAs), aircraft flight controls, autonomous vehicles, sophisticated weapon systems and tiny medical devices inside or outside of the human body, such as pacemakers and heart monitors.

The accurate functioning of these systems is often a matter of life and death. A small malfunction in a pacemaker could threaten the life of a patient; unexpected failures in flight control circuitry or in an autonomous vehicle may result in a crash.

A host of reasons could cause highly sensitive, automated mechanical devices to deviate from desired behavior or functionalities. These include design imperfections, faults resulting from uncontrolled physical phenomena, manufacturing variations, aging over time and other external disturbances, which even may include tampering or malicious design.

By funding fundamental research in the design of electronic chips, this joint NSF/SRC program on Failure Resistant Systems aims to ensure that at the outset systems are designed in such a way that they are self-corrective or self-healing with minimal or no external intervention during the entire life of its operation.

"As devices become smaller and approach fundamental limits, new design methodologies will be required to account for the wide variability which arises in the fabrication process" said Pramod Khargonekar, head of NSF’s Directorate for Engineering. "This joint program with SRC will allow our academic researchers to address pressing problems faced by our semiconductor industry."

"New fundamental design techniques have the potential to yield major advances in the reliability of electronic systems," said Farnam Jahanian, head of NSF’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. "This program builds on more than a decade of successful partnerships with SRC and provides the academic research community a new opportunity to do ground-breaking, long-term, basic research."

"This partnership of government, industry and academia helps our universities address critical computing challenges," said Steve Hillenius, SRC executive vice president. "This effort in resilient systems will have an effect on multiple industries and boost their competitiveness on a global scale, helping to transform market segments and translate research results into practice. Cooperative programs with NSF also help SRC deliver value to its industrial members’ capabilities, while allowing universities to continue to improve their understanding of the needs of the semiconductor industry."

Funding will support researchers at the following universities: the University of Texas (Austin, Dallas), the University of California (Riverside, Santa Barbara), the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Utah, Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, the University of Rochester, Colorado State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Virginia and West Virginia University.

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