IARPA Moving Forward with SuperTools Project

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has announced research contracts for its “SuperTools” program, a multi-year research effort to develop comprehensive software tools for designing and analyzing superconducting electronics circuits.

Once created, the software should enable a user to design complex circuits with greater speed while using less power, according to IARPA. “Modern electronic design tools are the core of the semiconductor revolution and have allowed ever more sophisticated electronic circuits to be designed and eventually built. Superconducting electronics offers the possibility of even faster and lower power circuits, but the design tools still need to be developed,” says Mark Heiligman, IARPA program manager.

IARPA has awarded SuperTools research contracts to teams led by the University of Southern California and Synopsys Inc. Government agencies and national laboratories, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories will assist IARPA in conducting independent testing and evaluation of the tool suites and associated design methodologies developed by each team. IARPA has also partnered with the US Army Research Office for the management of the SuperTools program.

IARPA estimates that superconducting electronics (SCE) operating in a cryogenic environment would allow a supercomputer to operate at 100 petaflops of performance for about 200 kilowatts. Today, supercomputers run at 20 petaflops and 10 megawatts.

“For over thirty years, Synopsys has developed EDA tools that have enabled the semiconductor industry to keep pace with semiconductor scaling and enabled Moore’s Law,” says Antun Domic, chief technology officer of Synopsys. “IARPA’s investment in superconducting technology, as evidenced by the C3 supercomputer and now SuperTools programs, can help SCE evolve and become accessible for more designs. We look forward to our collaboration with IARPA to expand the technical success and enable commercial customers to take advantage of this technology as it evolves.”

HYPRES Inc. (CSA CSM) will consult with Synopsys on developing libraries, circuits, IP processing and testing, while academic experts from Stony Brook University, Yokohama National University and the University of Rochester will provide guidance for the project. “Conventional semiconductor design is highly automated and circuits that can contain more than one billion gates are created with automated design tools,” says Richard Hitt, president of HYPRES. “Superconductor circuits today can operate at clock speeds in excess of 100Ghz but are limited to thousands of gates that must be hand-crafted by experts. We’re very excited to help IARPA and Synopsys enable broader use of this technology by bringing to bear our years of SCE design, testing and manufacturing expertise to this program.”