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The long arm of microelectronics – satellite meeting









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Satellite meeting organised by Professor David Cumming, Professor Steve Furber CBE FREng FRS and Professor Douglas Paul

Event details

Microelectronics is very closely identified with computer and communications technologies. Only recently has it shown that it has potential for much wider application and many researchers are now extending the reach of microelectronics, through photonics and sensing, into many new technology sectors.

This meeting continued the theme of the London meeting with a series of in-depth but less formal discussions at beautiful Chicheley Hall. A number of the London speakers presented summaries of their presentations and then lead sessions with the audience to explore the topic in more depth. In addition, there were three “keynote” formal presentations.

Biographies of the organisers and speakers (with abstracts where applicable) are available below. Audio recordings of the presentations are available by clicking on the names of the speakers below.

The related scientific discussion meeting eFutures: beyond Moore's Law immediately preceded this event.

Enquiries: Contact the events team.

Event organisers

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Schedule of talks

Session 1

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Small ARMs long tails

Mike Muller, ARM, UK


The electronics industry has been through many cycles of change from mainframes to PCs to the mobile. The next major cycle will be driven by the Internet of Things (IOT). There is a plausible silicon  roadmap for another 10 years but delivering the wide range of IOT devices will require integration of   more than just silicon. These devices will challenge conventional system design to achieve extreme low power, one size will not fit all. While both low power the requirements of a battery operated device are very different from one that is savaging limited energy from the environment.  IOT is not new but  we are seeing a transition from industrial control to consumer driven devices driven by user experience and the next phase of development will be enabled by the ability to share trusted data. Of course the hardware is always the easy part of the problem and it is the applications that are enabled by IOT devices from the lifesaving to the trivial that are the long tail.

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Towards Zero Power Technology

Professor Anthony O’Neill, Newcastle University, UK


The aspiration of the Internet of Things is a future connected world involving trillions of devices. But to fully achieve that scale it isn’t feasible to have everything wired up for power or to keep replacing batteries, so you need a place and forget technology, hardware which would take care of its own power requirements by harvesting energy from the surroundings. The big challenge is to close the gap between energy that can be harvested and the energy consumed in computation, sensing and communication.  The discussion concerns the identification of the key challenges in order to realise this vision.

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Nanosystems for health and the enviroment

Professor Giovanni De Micheli, Institute of Electrical Engineering, Switzerland


Several important societal and economic world problems can be addressed by the smart use of technology. The last forty years have witnessed the realization of computational systems and networks, rooted in our ability of crafting complex integrated circuits out of billions of transistors. Nowadays, the ability of mastering materials at the molecular level and their interaction with living matter opens up un- foreseeable horizons. Networking biological sensors through body-area, ad hoc and standard communication networks boosts the intrinsic power of local measurements, and allows us to reach new standards in health and environment management, with positive fallout on security of individuals and communities. This talk reviews the research program, addressing the enabling and disruptive technologies that stem from the combination of nano technology with large (tera) -scale information and communication systems.


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Beyond CMOS: Heterogeneous integration of high performance III-V devices and/or MEMS with Si CMOS to create intelligent microsystems

Dr Thomas E Kazior, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, USA


During the ‘eFutures: beyond Moore’s law’ meeting we presented an overview of current progress in  the heterogeneous integration of III-V devices, RF MEMS and other dissimilar materials/devices with Si CMOS to create intelligent microsystems or systems/sensors-on-a-chip.  These technology demonstrations showed that non-Si materials and devices could be integrated with Si CMOS on a  common substrate with minimal performance impact. While these were important ‘laboratory’       demonstrations, they were realized with ‘hybrid’ fabrication processes (eg Si CMOS built in a Si  foundry, non-Si materials/device built in III-V foundries or research labs). For our integration approach to be viable, the entire fabrication process needs to be implemented on large diameter wafers in a Si  foundry, enabling the creation of ‘cost-effective’ reconfigurable circuits for a wide range of  applications.  In particular, we will build upon the ‘eFutures’ presentation and review the challenges and progress of developing and scaling our III-V BiCMOS process to large (200 mm) diameter wafers and implementing the entire fabrication process in a Si foundry using variants on standard Si fabrication processes.

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Session 2

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Chemistry Integrated Circuit

Professor Kazuo Nakazato, Nagoya University, Japan


By integrating chemical reactions on a LSI chip, a completely new type of device can be realized.

(1) Chemical sensor array

Monolithically integrated sensor arrays for potentiometric, amperometric, and impedimetric sensing of biomolecules are developed. The potentiometric sensor array detects pH, DNA and redox reaction as a statistical distribution observing time and space fluctuations. For the amperometric sensor array, we proposed a switching circuit and an electrode design for measuring multiple microelectrode currents at high speed. The multimodal sensor array will enable synthetic analysis and make it possible to standardize biosensor chip.

(2) New functional devices

Another approach is to create new functional devices by integrating molecular system with LSIs. Such an example is in image sensors by incorporating biological materials with a sensor array. The quantum yield of the photoelectric conversion of photosynthesis, which is a chemical process occurring in plants, algate and cyanobacteria is 100%, which is extremely difficult to achieve by artificial means. In a recently developed process, a molecular wire is plugged directly into a biological photosynthetic system to efficiently conduct electrons to a gold electrode. A single photon can be detected at room temperature using such a system combined with a single-electron transistor.

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Body sensors for the future of medicine: will you still need your doctor?

Julien Penders, Holst Centre, IMEC, Netherlands


Recent public health successes and aging populations place new long-term demands on healthcare systems, calling for a paradigm shift to integrated and preventive healthcare. The focus of future healthcare systems should be on maintaining people healthily, raising each individual's awareness on his own health and inducing efficient behavioral changes that prevent and mitigate diseases. Wearable, miniaturized, sensors will play an important role in revolutionizing healthcare. In this talk we will review recent technology breakthroughs in wireless sensors. New micro-electronic technologies lead to miniaturized low-power wireless patches, allowing 24/7 monitoring of ECG and other physiological signals for weeks or months. Brain activity monitors are now integrated in headgears and headphones, allowing their use in the home environment without special skin preparation. And combining multiple wearable sensors in a network allows measuring specific physiological responses correlated to a particular mental or emotional state. Such examples show how wearable sensor technologies will empower each individual with their health, providing feedback on their lifestyle and inducing behavioral changes. They will change the way we manage chronic diseases by providing real-time diagnostics and patient-centric therapies. The doctors of the future will evolve to managers of health, assisted by millions of virtual assistants: wearable sensors watching over one’s health, 24/7.

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Silicon photonics: state of the art and future perspectives

Professor Roel Baets, Ghent University, Belgium


Silicon photonics is now recognized to be a very important enabling technology for high speed optical fiber datacommunication links as well as inter-chip optical interconnect links. It builds on the maturity  of CMOS process technology to integrate high speed optical modulators and detectors as well as passive WDM functions into a silicon chip and to do so with the technology portfolio available in an advanced CMOS fab. This technology allows us to build 100Gb/s transceivers and holds the promise to move to 1 Tb/s capacity. While datacom and interconnect are at present the main industrial drivers for this technology, new applications are already emerging. Silicon photonics technology can be used for a    wide variety of sensors and biosensors. While originally focused around optical fiber wavelengths – 1.3 to 1.55 micrometers - the technology is now also adapted for operation in a much broader wavelength range, from visible to mid-infrared.

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Session 3

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Terahertz real-time camera based on uncooled silicon-based antenna and resonant cavity coupled bolometer array

Dr François Simoens, CEA-Leti MINATEC, France


The development of Terahertz (THz) applications is slowed down by the availability of affordable, easy-to-use and highly-sensitive detectors. CEA-LETI took up this challenge by tailoring the mature Infrared (IR) bolometer technology for optimized THz sensing. The key feature of these detectors relies on the separation between electromagnetic absorption and the thermometer: for each pixel specific structures of antennas and a resonant quarter-wavelength cavity couple efficiently the THz radiation on a broadband range, while a central silicon microbridge bolometer resistance is read-out by a CMOS circuit providing high signal to noise ratio. 320x240 pixel arrays have been designed and manufactured: better than 30 pW power direct detection threshold per pixel has been demonstrated  in the 2-4THz range. Such performance is expected on the whole THz range by proper tailoring of the antennas while keeping the technological stack unchanged.  

This paper first reports the latest performance characterizations. Then imaging demonstrations are described, such as terahertz spectro-imaging techniques applied to concealed sugar pellets identification, real-time reflectance imaging of large surface of hidden objects and THz TDS beam 2D  profiling. Then perspectives of camera integration for scientific and industrials applications are discussed.

Co-author:  Jérôme Meilhan, CEA Leti-MINATEC

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Integrated Photon Counting Technologies: CMOS and Beyond

Professor Edoardo Charbon, TU Delft, Netherlands


Photon counting has been used in many fields of science, medicine, and engineering for decades,  contributing to important inventions, such as single-photon emission computed spectroscopy (SPECT),  positron emission tomography (PET), fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM), and quantum cryptography. The evolution from single pixel to multi-pixel photon counters, and the implementation of CMOS sensors has accelerated the impact of this technology and expanded the field of applications.

Until recently, photomultiplier tubes have been the detector of choice for photon counting applications; the emergence of solid-state silicon photomultipliers and single-photon imaging has changed the status quo creating a true revolution and triggering an impressive series of innovations in high-energy physics, medical imaging and diagnostics, instrumentation, and consumer electronics.

In this talk, I will outline the advantages of solid-state photon counting in imaging applications and I will show how it is achieved in existing CMOS processes. I will discuss several technology directions in advanced, deep-submicron technologies and the emergence of new materials for extended spectra of detection and ultra-high speed of operation.

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Attojoule optoelectronics?

Professor David Miller, FRS, Stanford University, USA


Recently, motivated by potential use in short-distance optical interconnects, optoelectronic devices with single femtojoule operating energies have been demonstrated, making them comparable in energy to some current logic gates. Can optoelectronics continue to scale to even lower, attojoule energies? How could we make such devices? What nanophotonic concepts, such as nanoresonators or nanometallic field concentration, would they exploit? Could we integrate these with electronics for very low energy systems? As scaling in electronic devices becomes more difficult, would such optoelectronics even take over any of the logic functions? What new system performance might be possible?


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Analog synthetic biology: from cells to electronics and electronics to cells

Professor Rahul Sarpeshkar, MIT, USA


Analog electronic circuits and circuits in cell biology are deeply similar: the equations that describe noisy electronic flow in sub-threshold transistors and the equations that describe noisy molecular flow in chemical reactions, both of which obey the laws of exponential thermodynamics, are astoundingly similar. Based on this similarity, we show how to map analog electronic circuit motifs to analog DNA-protein circuit motifs in cells.  In addition, highly computationally intensive noisy DNA-protein and protein-protein networks can be rapidly simulated in mixed-signal supercomputing chips that naturally capture their noisiness, dynamics, and loading interactions at lightning-fast speeds. Such an approach may enable large-scale design and analysis in synthetic and systems biology. Experimental results from synthetic analog circuits in living cells with applications in biotechnology, medicine, bio sensing, and energy generation will be discussed.

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Session 4

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Professor Douglas Paul, University of Glasgow, UK

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CMOS-to-biology electrochemical interfaces

Dr Andrew Mason, Michigan State University, USA


The escalating demand for new and improved tools to measure biological pneumonia has spurred advances in electronic instrumentation that permit rapid recording of various biological responses for algorithm-based analysis and decision making. Over the past decade, significant advances in CMOS-based electrochemical sensing systems have been demonstrated. Electrochemical systems have proven very effective for observation of response characteristics of various proteins, DNA, and other biomolecules. At the same time, electrochemical sensors utilizing a variety of biological receptors have been developed for detection and quantification of a wide range of biomedical targets including disease biomarkers, biotoxins, hazardous chemicals, and nanoparticles. Furthermore, CMOS-based electrochemical systems have demonstrated a potential for miniaturization into point-of-care and implantable platforms that exceeds traditional techniques.  This talk will review several CMOS-based electrochemical biosensor systems and engage the audience in a discussion regarding the future opportunities and challenges in developing next-generation CMOS-to-biology electrochemical interfaces.


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Commercialising research in semiconductors from university premises

Professor Florin Udrea, University of Cambridge, UK


The talk deals with 'the stories' of spinning off companies from university premises. The semiconductor-based technologies in all three companies originated from Cambridge University and were later commercialized following different business models and strategies, with and without venture capital. The talk also discusses the enabling factors that led to the foundation of fables IC companies. Finally the paper presents and compares the different disruptive technologies and the approaches taken for bringing them to market.

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Silicon nanostructures for optical biosensors


Silicon photonics is a useful platform for photonic nanostructures that allow us to control the flow of light, which offers useful degrees of freedom for designing optical biosensors. I will discuss recent developments in this area with a focus on photonic crystals that combine very sensitive detection with a very small footprint. The small footprint, in particular, offers new opportunities for localised detection, whereby individual cells or even sub-sections of cells, such as the synapses of neurons, can be interrogated. 

The long arm of microelectronics – satellite meeting The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK