Tallinn University of Technology

The dependable computing systems design research group of the Tallinn University of Technology Department of Computer Engineering has designed an innovative digital computer chip that can localize all of its faults and inform the external environment (i.e. the system using the chip) thereof.

According to the head of the research group, Professor at the Department of Computer Engineering, Jaan Raik, an explosive increase in the number of faults caused by ever-decreasing size of chips makes it a particularly topical issue. The digital chip was designed as a result of several master's theses, the supervisors of which included PhD students and researchers from Tallinn University of Technology. Work began in October 2015 and four master's theses were defended on the topic. The student project was led by TTU's PhD student Siavoosh Payandeh Azad from Iran, who defended his master's degree at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

The technology applied in the computer chip has been developed in the European Union's Horizon 2020 research project IMMORTAL (www.h2020-immortal.eu) led by Tallinn University of Technology and combining the expertise of the IBM corporation, German Aerospace Center DLR, Estonian company Testonica Lab OÜ and several foreign universities in investigating solutions for managing faults in complex computer systems.

The manufacturing of the chip is financed by the Europractice organization, which held a contest to fund ten European universities. The TTU research group was one of those singled out.

The chip is produced by using the 180 nm technology and the chip area is 2.5 mm2. The first 40 test chips will be manufactured in the Fraunhofer Institute in Erlangen, Germany.

"It must be noted, as an indication of consistency, that the previous (which was also the first) digital chip produced by an Estonian university was manufactured 20 years ago in the same Institute and this was a cryptoprocessor designed by Jüri Põldre. Miniaturization of chip technology has advanced at a dizzying pace in the last few decades. Back then, the technology used was 30 to 40 times more primitive and clumsy compared to today's technology," Professor Raik says.

The successful project underpins TTU's capability in the field of digital technology and constitutes a basis for the research group's further research in the new Estonian centre of excellence EXCITE.

Kersti Vähi, TTU Research Administration Office