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NTHU at the Forefront of AI and Secure Technology
With the advent of the era of artificial intelligence (AI) comes the need for advanced hacker protection for the chips used in such products as unmanned vehicles, smart factories, mobile phones, and wearable electronic devices. With this in mind, the Global Research & Industry Alliance (GLORIA) established at NTHU last year signed a contract on April 20th worth billions of Taiwan dollars with Mapper Lithology, to set up a high-volume e-beam direct-write lithography device at NTHU. The second of its kind worldwide, this device will be used to develop hacker-resistant chips for use in identity cards.
 
With the installation of this device, NTHU will become the first university in the world using 12-inch e-beam direct-write lithography to conduct R&D in semiconductor production, and Taiwan will become the first country in the world conducting trial production of this type of anti-hacker chip. At the signing ceremony NTHU President Hocheng Hong pointed out the interrelationship among artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things, and chip security, and said that Tsing Hua will soon develop a whole new generation of chip security. Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology Hsu Yu-chin said that the innovative technologies developed at universities need to be efficiently transferred to the manufacturing sector, not only domestically but also overseas and that is the role of GLORIA.
 
Bringing Together Talented People in Research And Industry
 
The Ministry of Science and Technology has established branches of GLORIA at 15 colleges and universities in Taiwan. The branch at NTHU was opened in September 2017 with the development theme of “smart living,” providing a membership-based platform for sharing information resources, and helping universities to team up with leading domestic and foreign manufacturers.
 
According to Prof. Tseng Fan-gang, Vice President for Research and Development, the GLORIA branch at NTHU brings together leading players in such areas as biomedicine, semiconductors, AI, the Internet of Things, energy, and cultural innovation projects. During its first phase of operation NTHU GLORIA has been joined by nine companies and research institutes based in Taiwan, including Delta Electronics, AzureWave Technologies, Kinpo Electronics, Yokogawa Taiwan, the Kinik Company, Shian Hong Metal Materials, Tailyn Electronics, and Gold NanoTech. The Alliance is expecting to sign up its first overseas members later this year.
 
NTHU GLORIA director T.Y. Bruce Lin pointed out that the rapid change in the industrial sector makes it necessary for team-work to be incorporated in research and development project. Thus the basic procedure of GLORIA is to coordinate the collaboration of its member universities and research institutes, thereby enhancing their ability to develop innovative and marketable products. Also, participating students will gain valuable experience to improve their prospects when entering the job market.
 
Anti-hacking Technology
 
At the signing ceremony on April 20, the plan to set up a 12-inch e-beam lithography device (MEB12) at NTHU was jointly announced by Mapper CEO and co-founder Bert Jan Kampherbeek, SCREEN Semiconductor Solutions President Tadahiro Suhara (whose company is providing the peripheral equipment), and General Manager of Synopsys Taiwan Robert Li (whose company provides the software).
 
Kampherbeek said that the lab created by Mapper at NTHU will be able to produce unique wafers suited for use in mobile phones and makes it hacker-proof. He also said that many innovative ideas come from universities, for example, Mapper itself was first conceived at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and he believes that many good things are happening at NTHU.
 
The director of the MEB12 program is Professor Chiu Po-wen of NTHU’s Center for Nanotechnology, Materials Science, and Microsystems. He said that mainstream wafer production currently uses photomask optical lithography, which is very fast, just like photography, but it has no exclusive code, making it easy to hack. In order to prevent hacking, we can add software encryption. By contrast, the chips manufactured with conventional e-beam lithography have exclusive codes, but the movable e-beam is too slow for mass production. Now, however, this limitation has been lifted by the e-beam direct-write lithography technology developed at Mapper.
 
Chiu also indicated that high-volume e-beam direct-write lithography is currently being used by the U.S. Department of Defense, but its first commercial application will be at NTHU. He added that in the past, using an e-beam was like writing a wafer with only one pen, but using a high-volume e-beam is like using 650,000 pens to write on a wafer the size of a fingernail. He also explained that “direct-write” means that it’s possible for the e-beam to directly write on the wafer, instead of using photomask refraction, which can save hundreds of millions of dollars.
 
Chiu further pointed out that traditional chips use software encryption to prevent hacking, but they can also be decrypted by using software. However, high-volume e-beam direct-write lithography makes it possible to write a unique and complex code into every chip, making them virtually impossible to hack.
 
As for Mapper’s interest in cooperating with NTHU, Chiu said that major international manufacturers are aware of NTHU’s top-notch research and development capacity, as well as Taiwan’s leading position in semiconductor technology. He also said that in the future it will be possible for semiconductor manufacturers in the nearby Hsinchu Science Park to use the University’s high-volume e-beam direct-write lithography technology to develop advanced hacker-proof wafers, and that new IC design companies that cannot afford photomasks can also use this equipment to test out the wafers they design.
 

VIPs at the signing and inauguration ceremony.

VIPs at the signing and inauguration ceremony.


GLORIA members displaying a poster with their signatures.

GLORIA members displaying a poster with their signatures.


Inaugurating the AI Research and Development Center. From left to right: Chang Shih-chieh, Tseng Fan-gang, Hsu Yu-chin, Hocheng Hong, Chen Sinn-wen, and Lin Congyong.

Inaugurating the AI Research and Development Center. From left to right: Chang Shih-chieh, Tseng Fan-gang, Hsu Yu-chin, Hocheng Hong, Chen Sinn-wen, and Lin Congyong.


The contract was signed by (left to right) Tadahiro Suhara, Hocheng Hong, Bert Jan Kampherbeek, and Robert Li.

The contract was signed by (left to right) Tadahiro Suhara, Hocheng Hong, Bert Jan Kampherbeek, and Robert Li.


The director of the AI Research and Development Center is Professor Chang Shih-chieh.

The director of the AI Research and Development Center is Professor Chang Shih-chieh.


NTHU President Hocheng Hong congratulated the establishment of the center.

NTHU President Hocheng Hong congratulated the establishment of the center.

 

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