Purdue center addresses pressing challenge of securing semiconductor chips
Center for Secure Microelectronics Ecosystem annual meeting focuses on research, workforce development to protect next-generation microelectronics
Purdue University’s emergence as a leader in semiconductor chips also requires it to usher in a new level of security that protects those essential chips needed for everything from your car and cellphone to artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The Center for Secure Microelectronics Ecosystem (CSME) at Purdue is tackling that challenge by developing the latest advances to protect today’s and tomorrow’s microelectronics and semiconductors. The center held its annual meeting Sept. 26-27 with university partners and industry sponsors, highlighting the research that connects the multi-institutional academic community with semiconductor industry leaders and the U.S. Department of Defense to safeguard economic and national security interests. The annual summit featured a number of industry representatives in attendance and over 30 student research presentations and posters.
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Security in computer systems and electronics often revolves around software, but the underlying microelectronics have the same potential to be hacked. Purdue College of Engineering faculty and programs lead the effort for better security through research advances in microelectronics. CSME is addressing security challenges through grants funded by the center’s industrial and government partners for research projects across the nation.
“Initial chip design, fabrication and the final packaging into circuit boards is spread out across not only companies but also countries now,” said Joerg Appenzeller, CSME co-director and Purdue’s Barry M. and Patricia L. Epstein Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This center ensures the semiconductor industry will be more resilient and prepared for security challenges, both large and small.”
CSME was announced in spring 2022 as a part of Purdue’s continued leadership in semiconductors. It is joined by university partners Arizona State, the University of Florida, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech. The center launched with support from founding companies TSMC and Synopsys in conjunction with support through a DOD-funded workforce development program.
TSMC announced an extension of its partnership with Purdue in June.
For CSME, the microelectronics supply chain represents as much potential for security issues as other considerations, which oftentimes means researchers are tackling problems akin to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
“Hardware security threats range from recycling older components as new, counterfeit parts to accidental or deliberate modifications to hardware that leaks sensitive information or causes malfunction in the field, to name a few,” said Anand Raghunathan, CSME co-director and the Silicon Valley Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Our researchers are pursuing advances that will ensure a secure microelectronics ecosystem by eliminating traditional and emerging security attacks.”
Purdue is a national leader in microelectronics research, spanning the semiconductor ecosystem in software and hardware. CSME is one of six major centers serving as anchors for that work, with a number of ongoing research projects focusing on various aspects of design, packaging and reliability.
Semiconductor and workforce development work by CSME represents a pillar of the recently announced Purdue Computes. The initiative amplifies the university’s dominant position today in education, research and industry partnerships in semiconductors. Under Purdue Computes, $100 million of semiconductor facilities are planned, including upgrades to the Birck Nanotechnology Center.
CSME recognizes the need for new generations of skilled professionals to advance semiconductor security. As part of its workforce development efforts, the center works with graduate and undergraduate students, posing and answering scientific questions of relevance to a secure microelectronics supply chain.
That follows workforce development as a continued focus of the university through the first comprehensive Semiconductor Degrees Program and the Purdue-led SCALE (Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement) microelectronics workforce development program.
CSME will provide research projects ripe for graduate students in SCALE, who will form the future workforce prepared to address the challenges of designing secure microelectronics.
Global connections to advance semiconductor research and workforce development have been a persistent pursuit at Purdue, which has established several international partnerships.
On May 21 Purdue President Mung Chiang signed a landmark international agreement during the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. Chiang signed another agreement in May for Purdue to become the flagship academic partner and collaborator with the government of India. In addition, Purdue, the state of Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced a partnership May 3 with imec, a Belgium-based semiconductor research and development firm.