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Researchers Roll Out Free Software to Advance Computer Chip Design

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The transistors are formed by the vertical red bars in the image, which are 15nm in length.

New chip design software developed at North Carolina State University is being made freely available to stimulate further research.

Credit: Rhett Davis

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have developed software to facilitate chip design, and are making it freely available in order to cultivate new research focused on pushing the envelope of computer technology.

"State-of-the-art transistors are now 15 nanometers (nm) long, and you can fit a billion of those transistors on a single chip," notes NCSU researcher Rhett Davis. "That means we need software to design those chips--and ours is the first free software that enables that level of chip design. There are no confidentiality agreements to hold researchers back and no strings attached, since one of our goals is to bring more people into the chip design field."

The FreePDK15 software provides chip designers with accurate rules and definitions for what optical lithography can and cannot do on the 15-nm scale. Optical lithography is the technology used to print transistor designs on a chip.

"Basically, the software allows designers free rein to explore new ideas, while keeping them within the bounds of what is physically possible," Davis says.

From NCSU News
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