Oregon State’s Semiconductor Program

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Huang Collaborative Innovation Center.
Jan. 30, 2023

There is powerful energy within Oregon State University’s semiconductor innovation program. The College of Engineering’s combination of top-tier faculty, talented students, and quality facilities, coupled with strong industry partners, and the accelerant of a true, interdisciplinary approach has created a technology hotbed where substantial advancements are taking place. This alignment of strengths in engineering, science, and computation has supported over 2,000 engineering graduates per year, helped launch three active semiconductor centers, and given rise to the $200 million Jen-Hsun Huang and Lori Mills Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex that is set to open in 2025. With all of this, it’s easy to see why the semiconductor research program is buzzing with such impressive energy. The opportunity for industry to plug in, advance research, and make connections with top faculty and students for workforce development is powerful. And with 15% of the U.S. semiconductor workforce centered right here in the Pacific Northwest, many of whom graduated from Oregon State, partnering with the Oregon State is a sure-fire way to stay competitive and meet workforce-diversification goals.

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Graphic of OSU's semiconductor program components

The semiconductor research program at Oregon State can be best understood in four, interconnected technology areas: IC Design, Electronic Materials & Devices, Process Technology, and Packaging & Integration.

Spanning each of these areas is our faculty’s remarkable work in artificial intelligence, which will see a greater role in semiconductor research as the Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex comes online and is leveraged to advance even more collaborations across the college and out into industry. The Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex, which will be built on Oregon State’s central campus and will house one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at a university, will also boast a state-of-the-art clean room, virtual reality theater, and water labs. Further, with the federal CHIPS and Science Act, which provides $52.7 billion for American semiconductor research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development, there are exciting possibilities for Oregon State to foster even more rapid advancement in all four of these areas in partnership with our most important stakeholders.

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People working with electronics equipment

CDADIC

The Center for Design of Analog-Digital Integrated Circuits is an internationally recognized research consortium in collaboration with Washington State University and the University of Washington and was originally established under the National Science Foundation’s I/UCRC program. The Center focuses on innovative research and education in analog, RF, and mixed-signal integrated circuit design in collaboration with key industry partners. The center research covers a broad range of application domains, including communications, sensing, transportation, security, and medical technology, and pushes the boundaries in high performance, low power consumption, and miniaturization. The Center contributes to the national workforce development by educating and training work-ready future employees in state-of-the-art analog/RF and mixed-signal integrated circuit and system design in industry-relevant areas.

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People working in a clean room

MaSC

The Materials Synthesis and Characterization Facility is a comprehensive resource that serves as both an open user facility and an innovation center. MaSC faculty and staff provide deep experience in thin-film deposition, device fabrication, and materials analysis, serving as a hub for materials and device development on the Oregon State University campus. OSU’s inorganic materials research has recently elicited worldwide interest in areas including transparent transistors, inorganic photoresists, and blue pigments. These developments and recent hiring of numerous top-flight researchers have positioned MaSC for growth in industrial research engagement.
 

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Close up of equipment

NNI

The Northwest Nanotechnology Infrastructure site is a collaboration between the University of Washington and Oregon State University and is part of the National Science Foundation - National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program. The NNI site specializes in world class nanotechnology infrastructure paired with technical and educational leadership in integrated photonics, advanced energy materials and devices, and bio-nano interfaces and systems; for a broad and diverse user base, its facilities act as a center for innovation for making, measuring, and mentoring to advance the use of nanotechnology in science and society.

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People looking at equipment

ATAMI

The Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Institute has 80,000 ft2 of advanced manufacturing and process facilities in a dynamic and highly collaborative environment. ATAMI is home to OSU College of Engineering faculty labs with a focus on advanced manufacturing processes, methods and materials, and the RAPID Manufacturing Institute which focuses on chemical process intensification. ATAMI also has private sector tenants, including small and large companies, to develop nano and microtechnology solutions, from efficient jet engines to a portable dialysis device. ATAMI users include biotech, semiconductor, solar, defense and advanced materials companies, and academia.

Home to industry-changing breakthroughs

College of Engineering faculty include leading experts in analog, digital, and millimeter-wave circuit design for applications in computing, low-power electronics, communications, and sensing. Further, novel advancements in semiconductor research often hinge on multidisciplinary collaborations, a quality for which Oregon State is well known, and which has been a key recruiting point for leading researchers and staff. One notable example can be seen in the collaboration on nanolithography with the College of Science. This “technical marriage” led famously to the development of extreme ultraviolet photoresists and birthed the Oregon State spinout company Inpria. This enabling technology, which allows industry to stay in step with Moore’s Law by making computer chips smaller and faster, will be seen in next-generation chip development the world over.

Across all four primary research areas, Oregon State Engineering is at the forefront of many technological breakthroughs. Examples include:

IC DESIGN

  • Advances in analog/digital converters
  • Low-cost MIMO transceivers using CMOS technology
  • Low-cost phased array atenna in silicon germanium 
  • Output prediction logic technique
  • Modeling and design of integrated circuit protection systems
  • Resource-efficient AI accelerators
  • Batteryless and power-autonomous electronics [using RF and thermoelectric energy harvesting]
  • Side-channel resistance crypto designs

ELECTRONIC MATERIALS & DEVICES

  • Advances in amorphous oxide semiconductors that have revolutionized display technologies, including transparent thin-film transistors
  • Pioneering research in dielectric, magnetic and piezoelectric materials
  • Groundbreaking work in tunneling electronics, sensors, and advanced manufacturing methods

PROCESS TECHNOLOGY

  • Nanolithography, high sensitivity resists for extreme ultraviolet patterning
  • ALD of 2D semiconductor dichalcogenides and nanolaminates
  • Development of semiconductor inks for inkjet-printed thin film transistors and solar cells 
  • Characterization of processes using operando techniques
  • Sustainable solution based processing to improve materials utilization

PACKAGING & INTEGRATION

  • Advances in supply chain logistics/life-cycle analysis 
  • Flexible and stretchable electronics for robotics and wearable devices
  • Heterogeneous integration for IC-enabled biosensors at scale
  • High-resolution 3D printing for direct-write interconnects and in-package RF devices
  • Anti-tamper solutions based on physical unclonable functions

Large local footprint

Home to some of the largest and most influential manufacturers and suppliers in the semiconductor ecosystem, the hub around Oregon State University includes device manufacturers, fabrication equipment manufacturers, materials developers, gas, chemicals, and services, and developers of electronic design automation software. With Intel leading the pack at over 20,000 employees, just 60 miles north, it’s no wonder Oregon State is so deeply connected to tech, as the collaborative opportunities are extremely rich.

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Map of semiconductor industry in Oregon
Image courtesy of the Oregon Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force

Education and workforce development

The College of Engineering, one of the nation’s largest, is a prominent contributor to semiconductor workforce development. Today, the college graduates over 2,000 engineers and computer scientists each year. To meet the surging demand for skilled graduates in the semiconductor industry, the college is committed to creating forward-looking, multi-disciplinary educational and training programs that will expand and diversify the workforce.

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Explanation of workforce development for the semiconductor industry

Structure and opportunity

The biggest opportunity stemming from the College of Engineering’s semiconductor research program is in “leveraging the college’s use-inspired research portfolio in combination with the university’s renowned expertise in artificial intelligence and ongoing efforts to address critical global issues including sustainability,” according to Tom Weller, head of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. This strategy aligns firmly with the core research priorities identified in the Department of Energy’s Report of the Basic Research Needs for Microelectronics, which, as Weller further notes, “describes the convergence of co-design principles where each scientific discipline informs and engages the other to achieve orders of magnitude improvements in system-level performance.” 

A convergence of energy, talent, resources, and drive is clearly taking place within Oregon State’s semiconductor research program. Take some time to dive in and see where you — as a collaborative industry partner, student, faculty member, or outside government agency — might fit in, to advance your own agenda and further the program.

To explore collaborative opportunities, or the semiconductor program in general, get in touch with us at: semi-osu@oregonstate.edu.

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