NTiny-E: NUST Successfully Tests Pakistan’s First Truly Indigenous Microprocessor – Technology
ISLAMABAD: Semiconductor chips are at the heart of all the electronics and consumer devices we use every day. Global semiconductor sales reached $556 billion in 2021 but Pakistan has been unable to tap into this lucrative market.
NUST, in line with its vision to undertake applied research and innovation, has embarked on the journey to make Pakistan self-sufficient in this critical technology. Researchers at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) have successfully completed comprehensive functional testing of the country’s first truly homegrown microprocessor, NTiny-E.
The on-board microprocessor chip was designed by the research team from the NUST School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (SEECS). The unique aspect of the project is its entirely in-house design, as opposed to the common practice of using open source cores from other sources or foreign collaborations. This makes NTiny-E a truly native product that gives the design team full leverage and control over all aspects of the chip.
NUST selected the largest and most important commercial foundry in the world, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC) for chip manufacturing using the industry standard 65 nm process node. This demonstrates the researchers’ ability to design chips that meet international industrial design and manufacturing standards. The event marks a milestone in the national semiconductor landscape and sets Pakistan on the path to realizing Quaid’s vision of self-reliance.
The NUST team was not limited to the design of the chip itself but also developed a complete ecosystem required for chip testing and incorporation into final products. The circuit board for chip testing and prototyping of end systems was also developed locally along with associated software and development tools.
This will help researchers and industrial product developers to design and manufacture products based on NTiny-E. NTiny’s target market is embedded systems, IoT devices, consumer electronics, etc. The indigenous nature of the product alleviates concerns about cybersecurity and technology denial. NUST also develops skilled and market-ready semiconductor human resources to meet critical shortages through its undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
In the context of the global shortage of semiconductor chips and export restrictions, the contributions of NUST researchers will help reduce dependence on foreign imports in the long term.
The NTiny design and development team was led by Dr. Rehan Ahmed and other team members included Shaheer Sajid, Qazi Shahid Ullah, Abdul Moeed, and Syed Talha Imam. Dr. Rehan has over 14 years of design experience in this field and has worked in international companies such as Siemens, Microsoft Research and Keysight (IXIA). The outstanding contributions of the researchers were duly supported and facilitated by senior management including Rector NUST Engr Javed Mahmood Bukhari, Pro-Rector (Academics) Dr Osman Hasan and Pro-Rector (Research, Innovation and Commercialization) Dr Rizwan Riaz .
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022