These days, semiconductor chips are the core of all modern products and home appliances. In 2021, global sales of semiconductors reached $556 billion, but Pakistan was unable to profit from this lucrative sector.
Pakistan makes First Embedded Microprocessor
In accordance with its mission of conducting applied research and innovation, the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) proceeded on the quest to make Pakistan self-sufficient in this vital technology.
Researchers at NUST have successfully completed full functional testing of the NTiny-E microprocessor, the nation’s first totally indigenously designed microprocessor. The embedded microprocessor chip was created by the NUST School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science research team (SEECS).
The event marks a significant milestone in the national semiconductor landscape and propels Pakistan one step closer to realising Quaid’s goal of independence.
In contrast to the normal practise of leveraging open-source cores from other sources or overseas partnerships, the unique characteristic of this project is its entirely in-house creation. This makes NTiny-E a completely indigenous product, granting the design team entire leverage and control over all areas of the chip.
NUST selected Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest and foremost commercial foundry, for chip production using the 65nm process node. This illustrates the researchers’ capacity to create semiconductors that adhere to worldwide standards for industrial design and manufacture.
In addition to designing the chip itself, the NUST team has also created the entire ecosystem necessary for testing the device and incorporating it into final products. Along with the software and development tools, the printed circuit board for chip testing and prototyping of end systems has also been indigenously produced.
This will enable the design and manufacture of NTiny-E-based devices by researchers and industrial product developers. Embedded systems, IoT devices, consumer electronics, etc. are NTiny’s target market. The product’s domestic origin allays concerns over cyber security and technology denial.
Through its undergraduate and graduate programmes, NUST is also generating competent and market-ready people resources for the semiconductor industry to meet significant shortages. In light of the global shortage of semiconductor chips and export limitations, the contributions of NUST researchers will contribute to a reduction in long-term reliance on foreign imports.
Dr. Rehan Ahmed supervised the NTiny design and development team, which included Mr. Shaheer Sajid, Mr. Qazi Shahid Ullah, Mr. Abdul Moeed, and Mr. Syed Talal Imam.
Dr. Rehan has worked for worldwide firms such as SIEMENS, Microsoft Research, and Keysight (IXIA) during his fourteen years of design experience in this field. Top leadership, including Rector NUST Engr Javed Mahmood Bukhari, Pro-Rector (Academics) Dr. Osman Hasan, and Pro-Rector (Research, Innovation & Commercialization) Dr. Riazwan Riaz, encouraged and promoted the remarkable contributions of researchers.