Dr. Yiyu Shi, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, recently received the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for young faculty members for his computer engineering research that could lead to the commercialization of 3-D integrated circuits.
Shi received the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development CAREER Award. The NSF describes the CAREER Awards as the agency’s “most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”
Shi, a member of the Missouri S&T faculty since 2010, will use the CAREER Award funding to continue his research in the area of advanced circuit design. He has developed a way to reduce the silicon area of a 3-D integrated circuit by up to 30 percent, which could reduce production cost by up to 70 percent.
A major focus of the electronics industry today is on 3-D integrated circuits or ICs, which stack multiple computer chips vertically and use vertical electrical connections called through-silicon vias, or TSVs, for inter-chip power, heat and signal delivery, Shi says.
“These 3-D ICs are expected to have a smaller area, use less power and perform at a higher speed than their 2-D counterparts,” he says. “However, in reality, the TSVs are so big that the benefits cannot be fully attained.”
Shi says that past research has focused on minimizing the TSV area, but most efforts have been unsuccessful. Shi addressed the problem from a different angle.
“Instead of making TSVs smaller, I can make them more useful,” Shi says. “My preliminary study suggests that a TSV can act as a capacitor, inductor or transistor, and thus its area can be effectively used for many alternative purposes.”
Shi says his research will have an impact on both the research community and industry.
“Many big industry players, including IBM and Intel, have contacted me for joint development with my transformative technology,” Shi says. “Major support comes from Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan, the leading 3-D IC research laboratory in Asia, which will provide opportunities for silicon validation.”
Shi has published more than 20 journal articles, more than 60 conference papers and generated more than $1.2 million in external research funding during his tenure at Missouri S&T. He has been invited to deliver talks on his current research at universities, research institutes and corporations worldwide.
Shi will receive $400,000 over three years to continue his research.