Many of the devices we use every day, like smartphones and computers, rely on tiny electronic components. These microelectronics have undergone tremendous advances through increased miniaturization. But current technology seems to be approaching its limit. New approaches are required to meet the growing needs of our information-driven society.
On August 25, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded nearly $54 million to 10 new projects led by DOE’s national laboratories to increase energy efficiency in microelectronics design and production. Scientists Supratik Guha and Valerie Taylor at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory will lead two of these projects.
“Thanks to microelectronics, technologies that used to swallow entire buildings now fit in the palms of our hands — and now they are supporting climate solutions in electricity, transportation and renewable energy.” — Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm
“Thanks to microelectronics, technologies that used to swallow entire buildings now fit in the palms of our hands — and now they are supporting climate solutions in electricity, transportation and renewable energy,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s world-class scientists are stepping up to reduce the carbon footprint of micro technologies used by billions of people around the world to secure our clean energy future, increase American competitiveness and lead on climate action and innovation.”
Guha’s project is titled “Ultra-dense, near-perfect, atomic and synaptic memory.” His team will work to understand and create new approaches for memory for future computing.
The need for unlimited fast memory and more efficient memory-centric computing is critical for future global computing needs, and memory technology is the largest bottleneck for extreme-scale computing platforms. Microelectronics innovations today bend, but do not resolve, the memory bottleneck grand challenge. The materials, devices and architectures that will deliver solutions do not exist today and need to be designed based on scientific understanding of mechanisms at the electronic, atomic and system level.
The research could lead to more energy-efficient computing, which translates to new and more widespread computing applications across all aspects of society and the world.
“Our planned research is of a basic scientific nature and aimed towards understanding and creating new approaches for digital and analog memory for future computing,” said Guha, senior advisor to Argonne’s Physical Sciences and Engineering directorate and a professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.
The team’s objective is to carry out the discovery science needed for extremely efficient memory for the future — orders of magnitude denser, more energetically efficient and more powerful than today.
Taylor’s project is titled “Threadwork: a transformative co-design approach to materials and computer architecture research.” It involves multidisciplinary collaboration that considers the interdependencies among materials, physics, architectures and software.
Threadwork is an approach to materials and computer architecture research that will transform the process by which scientists conduct microelectronics research. A key component of Threadwork is a simulation framework to explore relationships from materials to applications. This coupling, or co-design, is essential to identifying the most promising avenues for research into materials and devices that impact microelectronics, detectors for high energy physics and nuclear physics research and other applications aligned with DOE.
“I am very excited about the opportunities presented by the Threadwork co-design approach to connect applications with materials research and accelerate progress in multiple science domains,” said Taylor, director of Argonne’s Mathematics and Computer Science division.
The team includes scientists from areas spanning materials research in neuromorphic — or brain-inspired — devices and interconnects, high energy physics and nuclear physics detectors, computer architecture, neuromorphic algorithms and artificial intelligence methods, atomistic modeling and energy-efficient computing.
Also on Taylor’s proposal are Anand Bhattacharya, Pierre Darancet, Salman Habib, Xuedan Ma, Sandeep Madireddy, Xingfu Wu, Angel Yanguas-Gil and Jinlong Zhang (Argonne); Andrew Chien (joint appointment with Argonne and the University of Chicago); and Mark Hersam (Northwestern University).
Guha’s proposal includes Pete Beckman, Dillon Fong and Charudatta Phatak (Argonne); Giulia Galli and Tian Zhong (joint appointments with Argonne and the University of Chicago); and Anand Raghunathan and Kaushik Roy (Purdue University).
The projects were chosen based on peer review under the DOE National Laboratory Announcement “Microelectronics Co-Design Research.” The Argonne projects were awarded a combined total of $10.5 million. DOE’s total award funding is $54 million for projects lasting up to three years, with $18 million in Fiscal Year 2021 dollars and outyear funding contingent on Congressional appropriations.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.