IIIT Hyderabad Now in India’s Elite Semiconductor Club of Few that Can Tape-Out Full Test Chip

The International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) has reached a significant milestone in the semiconductor domain. The Integrated Circuits inspired by Wireless and Biomedical Electronic Systems (IC~WiBES) lab at the Centre for VLSI and Embedded Systems Technologies (CVEST) at IIIT-H has made headlines with a historic chip tape-out and its selection into the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) prestigious Special Manpower Development Program (SMDP).

This achievement is particularly notable because chip design and fabrication are relatively uncommon in academic institutions in India, with only a few IITs and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) engaging in such activities. The test chip was designed and fabricated by a team of MS students under the guidance of Prof. Abhishek Srivastava, and it includes advanced components crucial for modern communications, such as mmWave (near 20 GHz) and Sub-6 GHz circuits.

The lab's focus on R&D has led to innovations in healthcare, high-speed communication, and quantum sensing, using their own Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) or commercially available components. The IC~WiBES lab has also developed an IC characterization facility and an electronic system design and test facility, which are being utilized by both the institute and external parties.

In the past, chip design and fabrication at the lab was typically undertaken in collaboration with other stakeholders, but a significant milestone was achieved with the designing and taping-out of a full test chip by a team of MS students at CVEST under the guidance of Prof. Srivastava.

The term "tape-out" is a significant milestone in the semiconductor manufacturing process. It refers to the point at which the design of an integrated circuit (IC) is finalized and sent to a semiconductor foundry for fabrication. This step marks the transition from the design phase to the production phase.

This milestone reflects the growing capabilities and contributions of Indian institutions in the global semiconductor industry, which is a critical part of the digital economy. It's an exciting development for the country's technological advancement and innovation in this field.

In the past, chip design and fabrication at the lab was typically undertaken in collaboration with other stakeholders, but a significant milestone was achieved with the designing and taping-out of a full test chip by a team of MS students at CVEST under the guidance of Prof. Abhishek Srivastava. While a tape-out or fabrication is not novel in itself, it is definitely uncommon for academic institutions in India. “Only a few IITs and the IISc do it,” says the Prof. Srivastava.

This achievement is part of the lab's selection into the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) prestigious SMDP program. The project aims to develop a complete mmWave (24GHz) sensing technological platform in India, marking a significant advancement in localized high-frequency technology development.

Furthermore, IIIT Hyderabad's semiconductor research has led to practical applications such as a wireless pneumonia detector, a safety device for factory workers to monitor vital signs, and radar-based healthcare applications for capturing heart and breath rate data of multiple subjects simultaneously.

Impact on Indian Semiconductor Ecosystem

The milestone achieved by IIIT-H in the semiconductor domain can have several impactful implications for the industry:

The success of IIIT-H in designing and fabricating advanced semiconductor components can inspire more academic institutions to engage in semiconductor research. This can lead to a surge in innovation, with new ideas and technologies emerging from research labs.

By involving students in such high-level projects, IIIT-H is contributing to the development of skilled professionals in the semiconductor field. This can help address the talent shortage in the industry and ensure a steady pipeline of qualified engineers.

Such milestones can foster stronger collaborations between academia and industry. Companies may partner with institutions like IIIT-H for research and development, leading to faster commercialization of new technologies.

Overall, the achievement by IIIT-H is not just a win for the institution but a significant step forward for the entire semiconductor industry in India and potentially on a global scale.
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