An integrated circuit (IC) is the fundamental component of all modern electronics. It is, as the name implies, an integrated system of several miniaturized and interconnected components embedded in a thin semiconductor substrate (usually silicon crystal). An IC can function as an amplifier, oscillator, timer, counter, logic gate, computer memory, microcontroller, or microprocessor.
ICs have advanced tremendously over the last 50 years, with higher speeds, greater capacity, and smaller sizes. Today's integrated circuits (ICs) are astoundingly complex, capable of housing billions of transistors and other components on a single little piece of material.
The market for the production of ICs in Lebanon is almost non-existent; that is until Dr. Mazen Saghir, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA), along with his students, designed three digital circuits for an IC that will be manufactured by the company Efabless using the 130 nm SKY130 process design kit (PDK). This is a first for the country and an amazing milestone for both MSFEA and AUB.
The designs were submitted on December 5 as part of the TinyTapeout 2 IC shuttle program where students and even hobbyists can submit designs that are limited to around 1000 logic gates.
Once fabricated, the ICs will be mounted on a printed circuit board (PCB) that enables any of the designs to be selected and tested individually. They are expected back from fabrication in mid 2023 and will include the three submitted designs: A 4-bit accumulator-based microprocessor designed by MSFEA graduate student Majdi Abdulsamad, a PWM signal generator designed by third-year students Razan Thebian and Hassan Baydoun, and a seven-segment display effects generator designed by Dr. Mazen Saghir.
“This is my submission to TinyTapeout 2." Commented Dr. Mazen. “It is a seven segment effects generator implemented in SkyWater's SKY130 PDK. It uses 249 cells and runs at 12.5 KHz. Stay tuned for results once the chips come back from fabrication."
“With the help of Dr. Mazen Saghir," said Hassan Baydoun about their project, “my friend Razan Thebian and I were able to complete and submit a PWM generator module to the tinytapeout 2 shuttle. We had to meet a very close deadline, especially since we are currently preparing for our finals, but I am very proud that we were able to make it against all odds! The PWM generator that we came up with can run at four different frequencies and has a variable duty cycle that can be chosen using specific input bits. Below is the resulting chip. I am very happy that we were able to pull off this challenge and I look forward to more opportunities in the future!"