I’m a recent graduate in electrical and electronic engineering from Curtin University, currently working as a research engineer at the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA). My work is on semiconductors, where I am working with a team investigating the response of 0.35μm CMOS integrated circuits to high power microwave (HPM) signal injection.
The project involved designing and importing custom integrated circuits which are fabricated on what’s known as a “die”. Here is a closeup of one with a $2 coin beside it for scale.
At 2×3.5 mm, the device is tiny. Although small, it contains a number of CMOS test structures and other fundamental semiconductor structures such as NMOS, PMOS, BJTs, and diodes. These are the machines that produce “ones and zeros,” or logic and other essential functions required by phones, computers, and 99% of electronic devices to operate.
The goal is to better understand a specific failure mechanism known as “latch-up” to which all CMOS are susceptible. Latch-up is characterized by a huge increase in device power consumption and temperature, and is due to the activation of an inherent parasitic structure within the device. If allowed to remain in the state unabated, it permanently damages the device structure resulting in loss of functionality. We intend to learn about this phenomenon by inducing the CMOS structures into this state, observing and recording the response, and matching the results with known theory and simulations.
Through this research project, the failure mechanisms prone to CMOS devices may be better understood, so that the electronics systems so much of our society is dependant on can continuously and reliably operate.
If you want to learn more about this project, here is a link to the the Australian Defence, Science, and Technology Group’s webpage which gives greater detail on the scope and other objectives. For learning about latch-up, this whitepaper by Texas Instruments has a great explanation of the mechanism behind triggering the event, and includes other information relevant to the topic.
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