Three UAE National graduate students from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, have embarked on a two-week internship at Globalfoundries, the world's second largest semiconductor foundry company, wholly-owned by Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Company, in Dresden, Germany.
A semiconductor power-house with advanced operational and technology capabilities, the Globalfoundries facility in Dresden, known as Fab 1, is one of the company's most advanced 300mm semiconductor manufacturing site, and is credited as one of the most innovative and productive manufacturers of integrated circuits in 28 nanometre (nm) technologies.
Dr. Behjat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost, Masdar Institute, said, "We are pleased to see three of Masdar Institute's UAE nationals take on this incredible opportunity to intern at Globalfoundries. Internships like these underscore Masdar Institute's commitment to developing the country's indigenous human capital. We hope that the knowledge gained by these young Emiratis will translate into engineering innovations, contributing to the growth of the UAE's knowledge economy and nascent semiconductor industry. With the support of the UAE leadership, we will continue to offer internship opportunities with top-level global corporations and we hope the program will benefit everyone involved."
A report from Reuters predicts the global microchip market to reach US$355 billion by 2016. Masdar Institute aims to position Abu Dhabi at the forefront of the growing semiconductor industry by developing skilled human capital capable of producing next-generation microchip technologies.
Badreyya Al Shehhi and Hamad Al Blooshi, MSc students from Masdar Institute's Microsystems Engineering program, along with Noora M. Al Shehhi, a MSc student from the Electrical Power Engineering program, will gain first-hand experience in the design of nano-sized integrated circuits, which is integral to their thesis research projects.
Dr. Mihai Sanduleanu, Associate Professor, Microsystems Engineering, Masdar Institute, is supervisor to the three students and expects that each student will develop patents and form start-ups around the microchips they will begin to develop at Dresden.
Speaking about the internship, Dr. Sanduleanu explained, "The students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and technology provided by Globalfoundries in Dresden, including their cleanroom. Additionally, they will get training in computer-aided design (CAD) for integrated circuit design, digital design flow, analog design flow and layout, as well as on-wafer measurements."
Al Shehhi's thesis seeks to develop an ultra-low power (ULP) wireless transceiver solution for connecting different electronic devices, such as radio-frequency identification tags, sensors, and mobile phones, with a master device. The transceiver will have no external components, except a battery, and will have an on-chip integrated antenna.
"This internship will help me to obtain new skills and allow me to deeply understand the topic of my MSc thesis work," AlShehhi said.
"It is a great opportunity to network with experienced analog/radio frequency designers and to share ideas and feedback. I expect that I'll get a better understanding of how semiconductor fabrication works and I am eager to visit the cleanroom to see the process flow of the technology," she added.
The aim of Al Shehi's research is to develop an ‘invisible' identification tag that will operate without battery or external components. The device could be embedded in banknotes, identification cards, books, jewellery, or mobile phones. One potential application of the identification tag is to certify if the object that it is embedded on is fake or genuine.
Al Shehhi said, "This internship is a great opportunity because it will give me the chance to develop the skills and confidence I need so that I can start designing my circuits. It will give me an opportunity to understand the details of the integrated circuit design."
Al Blooshi is developing a microchip that, when placed on a flexible photovoltaic (PV) cell, will boost the energy efficiency of the cell. Currently, flexible PV cells have a photovoltaic efficiency of only 10%, which means that they can only convert 10% of the sun's energy into electricity. With Alblooshi's proposed microchip, which connects to an antenna printed on the back side of the photovoltaic cell, the chip will be able to harvest more energy from the crowded, low GHz part of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as the radio waves – an area of the electromagnetic spectrum that PV cells are unable to harness.
Al Blooshi said, "My internship in Dresden will provide me with valuable insight on the fabrication of complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technologies. This insight will be extremely valuable as I design my hybrid electromagnetic and solar energy harvester at Masdar Institute."
Masdar Institute has a longstanding relationship with Globalfoundries, where it has previously sent interns in 2013, including Masdar Institute PhD students Wala Saadeh and Mohammed Awais bin Altaf. Masdar Institute faculty and students have access to Globalfoundries' Abu Dhabi-based laboratory, where they have developed semiconductor designs for 28nm microchips – a process known as ‘tape-out' – which will be manufactured in Globalfoundries' Fab 1. Mohammed Lakehal, Senior Manager of Technology Research Enablement at Globalfoundries, manages the R&D partnership with Masdar Institute.
Through its backing of the Mubadala Technology-SRC Centre of Excellence for Energy Efficient Electronic Systems – which helps create a regional ecosystem in the areas of design and testing of integrated energy efficient micro-systems – and its commitment to broadening the local technology workforce, Masdar Institute is driving innovation in next-generation electronic systems and contributing to Abu Dhabi's sustainable knowledge economy transformation.