Physical Aspects of VLSI Design with a Focus on Three-Dimensional Integrated Circuit Applications

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This work is on three-dimensional integration (3DI), and physical problems and aspects of VLSI design. Miniaturization and highly complex integrated systems in microelectronics have led to the 3DI development as a promising technological approach. 3DI offers numerous advantages: Size, power consumption, hybrid integration etc., with more thermal problems and physical complexity as trade-offs. We open this work by presenting the design and testing of an example 3DI system, to our knowledge the first self-powering system in a three-dimensional SOI technology. The system uses ambient optical energy harvested by a photodiode array and stored in an integrated capacitor.

An on-chip metal interconnect network, beyond its designed role, behaves as a parasitic load vulnerable to electromagnetic coupling. We have developed a spatially-dependent, transient Green's Function based method of calculating the response of an interconnect network to noise. This efficient method can model network delays and noise sensitivity, which are involved problems in both planar and especially in 3DICs.

Three-dimensional systems are more susceptible to thermal problems, which also affect VLSI with high power densities, of complex systems and under extreme temperatures. We analytically and experimentally investigate thermal effects in ICs. We study the effects of non-uniform, non-isotropic thermal conductivity of the typically complex IC material system, with a simulator we developed including this complexity. Through our simulations, verified by experiments, we propose a method of cooling or directionally heating IC regions.

3DICs are suited for developing wireless sensor networks, commonly referred to as ``smart dust.'' The ideal smart dust node includes RF communication circuits with on-chip passive components. We present an experimental study of on-chip inductors and transformers as integrated passives. We also demonstrate the performance improvement in 3DI with its lower capacitive loads.

3DI technology is just one example of the intense development in today's electronics, which maintains the need for educational methods to assist student recruitment into technology, to prepare students for a demanding technological landscape, and to raise societal awareness of technology. We conclude this work by presenting three electrical engineering curricula we designed and implemented, targeting these needs among others.