The pioneers of to­mor­row’s tech­nol­ogy

Through its de­vo­tion to R&D, Semi­con­duc­tor En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory con­tin­u­ously cre­ates the tech­nolo­gies that shape the fu­ture of our planet.

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One of the pil­lar tech­nolo­gies of the Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) has the po­ten­tial to rad­i­cally im­prove busi­ness, liv­ing en­vi­ron­ments, and global health. But like any dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy, AI har­nesses po­ten­tial risks that can­not be ig­nored – the most talked about, of course, is the im­pact it will have on jobs.

An­other is­sue to be ad­dressed with AI, which is much less talked about, is re­lated to en­ergy con­sump­tion. In order to fully har­ness the po­ten­tial of AI tech­nolo­gies in daily life and busi­ness, ex­perts say that the cur­rent amount of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion needs to be re­duced 1,000-fold. This has led com­pa­nies to de­velop tech­nolo­gies – both hard­ware and soft­ware – that can re­duce the amount of en­ergy used by AI ap­pli­ca­tions.

One com­pany that is fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing en­ergy-sav­ing hard­ware is Semi­con­duc­tor En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory Co., Ltd. (SEL). SEL has tasked it­self with de­vel­op­ing nextgen­er­a­tion ma­te­rial tech­nol­ogy for semi­con­duc­tors that can re­place the ‘com­pli­men­tary metal-ox­ide semi­con­duc­tors’ that are ubiq­ui­tous in dig­i­tal elec­tron­ics. SEL’S R&D ef­forts have fo­cused on us­ing ce­ramic ma­te­ri­als to make crys­talline ox­ide semi­con­duc­tors, de­vices which can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce en­ergy con­sump­tion.

“One of the rare fea­tures of field ef­fect tran­sis­tors (FETS) fab­ri­cated with crys­talline ox­ide semi­con­duc­tor ma­te­rial (OS­FETS) is an ex­tremely low off-state cur­rent that has yet to be mea­sured by hu­mankind. Us­ing this fea­ture, ex­tremely low power con­sump­tion can be achieved,” says SEL pres­i­dent, Dr. Shun­pei Ya­mazaki.

“The OS­FET can be con­sid­ered to be an ex­cel­lent ‘switch’, as it has a very high on/off cur­rent ra­tio in a wide range of tem­per­a­tures. This su­perb switch is an en­abler of new mem­ory de­vices and mul­ti­ply ac­cu­mu­late op­er­a­tion cir­cuits used in AI.”

SEL has de­vel­oped a num­ber of low-en­ergy de­vices com­posed of OS­FETS that are ap­pli­ca­ble to AI, in­clud­ing: DOS­RAM (dy­namic ox­ide semi­con­duc­tor ran­dom ac­cess mem­ory, see pic­ture), which en­ables a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in power as its re­fresh op­er­a­tion rate is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than com­monly used RAM com­posed of sil­i­con FETS; NOS­RAM (non-volatile ox­ide semi­con­duc­tor ran­dom ac­cess mem­ory, see pic­ture), which op­er­ates with lower volt­age than sil­i­con flash mem­o­ries and con­sumes less power; and NOF­FCPU (nor­mally off cen­tral pro­cess­ing unit), which uses 94 per­cent less power than stan­dard CPUS.

“Hard­ware with low power con­sump­tion as well as ap­pro­pri­ate soft­ware to com­ple­ment the over­all sys­tem are very im­por­tant for AI. Semi­con­duc­tor de­vices us­ing crys­talline ox­ide en­able low power con­sump­tion, there­fore, DOS­RAM, NOS­RAM, and NOF­FCPU de­vel­oped by SEL are po­ten­tially ap­pli­ca­ble to low-power hard­ware for AI,” adds Dr. Ya­mazaki.

Look­ing to­wards the fu­ture, SEL has been de­vel­op­ing ap­pli­ca­tions that uti­lize the ex­tremely low off­s­tate cur­rent of OS­FET as well as state-of-the-art AI hard­ware to pro­duce a novel lithium-ion sec­ondary bat­tery con­trol sys­tem us­ing OS­FETS (BTOS). The cur­rent is­sue

Non-volatile ox­ide semi­con­duc­tor ran­dom ac­cess mem­ory (NOS­RAM); and dy­namic ox­ide semi­con­duc­tor ran­dom ac­cess mem­ory (DOS­RAM), de­vel­oped by SEL

with lithium-ion sec­ondary bat­ter­ies, which are used in many elec­tronic de­vices such as smart­phones and elec­tric ve­hi­cles, is that they are com­monly at risk of catch­ing fire due to mi­cro-short-cir­cuit­ing. In order to by­pass this, SEL is de­vel­op­ing a bat­tery con­trol sys­tem that can de­tect mi­cro short cir­cuits and deal with the prob­lem ac­cord­ingly thanks to the com­bi­na­tion of OS­FET and AI hard­ware. With these de­vel­op­ments, SEL hopes to pro­vide de­vices of high qual­ity, ef­fi­ciency, and safety to cus­tomers around the world.

In ad­di­tion, SEL has been work­ing on fur­ther im­prove­ment in lithium-ion bat­tery per­for­mance, and has patented tech­nol­ogy that prom­ises to re­duce bat­tery size, in­crease ca­pac­ity, and im­prove rapid charge and dis­charge char­ac­ter­is­tics.

These are just a few of the lat­est in­no­va­tions de­vel­oped by SEL and its founder Dr. Ya­mazaki. SEL is one of the most unique com­pa­nies in the world, whose dis­tinc­tive busi­ness model is linked to the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of its out­stand­ing re­search ca­pac­ity and its in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty cy­cle. Dr. Ya­mazaki is fa­mous for hold­ing the largest num­ber of cred­ited patents with well over 11,000 in­ven­tions. In 2016, he was awarded by the Amer­i­can Ce­ramic So­ci­ety for his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to ox­ide semi­con­duc­tor tech­nol­ogy and en­ergy-sav­ing dis­play de­vices through his nu­mer­ous in­ven­tions.

*OS­FET, DOS­RAM, NOS­RAM, NOF­FCPU, and BTOS are reg­is­tered trade­marks and a trade­mark of Semi­con­duc­tor En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory Co., Ltd. in Ja­pan (Ja­panese trade­mark regis­tra­tion No. 5519759, No. 5519752, No. 5529056, No. 5519756, and Ja­panese trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tion No. 2018-097721).

Dr. Shun­pei Ya­mazaki, Pres­i­dent, Semi­con­duc­tor En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory Co., Ltd. (SEL)

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