The objective of this project is to explore technology for low-power reconfigurable computing at extreme environment, i.e. at a temperature > 250Â°C and at high radiation (1-30 Mrad), where conventional electronics fail to work reliably. The project seeks to develop the computing platform through a device-circuit-architecture co-design approach. The platform uses polycrystalline SiC nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) switches to achieve nanoscale dimension, superior mechanical and chemical stability at extreme conditions and virtually zero leakage. The project studies a novel switch structure with multi-layer cantilever beams to realize the reconfigurable building blocks with high density and robustness. Possible hybridization with SiC junction field effect transistor (JFET) will be explored to address the issue of cascading mechanical logic blocks with limited driving capability. The project also investigates a novel computational model and architecture to adapt to failures and to achieve low interconnect overhead. Considering the lack of simulation models for NEMS switches and circuits, it will develop appropriate circuit-compatible models. Operation of the building blocks at high temperature will be validated through simulation as well as fabrication and measurements of test chips.
The proposed low-power reconfigurable hardware design approach can provide enabling technology for extreme-environment computing in number of application areas including automotive and industrial applications, space, avionics, combustion engine, and intelligent propulsion systems. It can provide an order of magnitude lower power and area than state-of-the-art SiC transistor based electronics. The simulation models can be valuable research tool for analysis of nanoscale mechanical switches. The research will integrate education and training through development of a new undergraduate course, interdisciplinary senior projects, and an internet group on harsh environment electronics.