NIST and Google sign deal for open source chips for research

NIST has signed a cooperative agreement with Google to develop and produce chips for researchers to be used in making nanotech and semiconductor devices.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Under the deal, the chips will be made by SkyWater Technology in Bloomington, Minnesota, at a foundry there. Google pays for initial costs of setup and will subsidize the first production run, NIST said in a statement.

NIST and university partners will design the circuitry based on open source designs, which allows small businesses and academia to use the chips without restrictions or fees.

The agreement is designed to create a new and affordable supply of chips for research, helping researchers and startups nationwide, said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology Laurie Locascio. The collaboration was planned before the August passage of the CHIPS Act.

NIST and Google will make available a bottom layer chip with structures for measure and testing the parts on top of it, including new kinds of memory devices, nanosensors, bioelectronics and devices for AI and quantum computing.

NIST might make up to 40 different chips for different apps. Moving to an open-source approach will foster reproducibility, helping researchers interate on each other’s work, said Will Grannis, CEO of Google Public Sector. “It democratizes innovation in nanotechnology and semiconductor research,” he said.

Skywater will produce 200mm silicon wafers, a standard format, and universities will buy them to dice into individual chips. So far the research partners named by NIST include University of Michigan, University of Maryland, George Washington University, Brown University and Carnegie Mellon University.

A NIST virtual workshop is planned for Sept. 20-21 on using chips for measurement science and prototyping and will include a working group meeting on the NIST/Google collaboration, open to the public.  Registration is on the NIST website.

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