Recent years have seen fin field effect transistors (finFETs) dominate modern complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processes, , e.g., at the sub 20 nm technology nodes, as they alleviate short channel effects, provide lower leakage, and enable some continued VDD scaling. However, a realistic finFET based predictive process design kit (PDK) that supports investigation into both circuit and physical design, encompassing all aspects of digital design, for academic use has been unavailable. While the finFET based FreePDK15 was supplemented with a standard cell library, it lacked full physical verification (LVS) and parasitic extraction at the time . Consequently, the only available sub 45 nm educational PDKs are the planar CMOS based Synopsys 32/28 nm and FreePDK45 (45 nm PDK) . The cell libraries available for those processes are not realistic since they use large cell heights, in contrast to recent industry trends. Additionally, the SRAM rules and cells provided by these PDKs are not realistic. Because finFETs have a 3D structure, which affects transistor density, using planar libraries scaled to sub 22 nm dimensions for research is likely to give poor accuracy.
Commercial libraries and PDKs, especially for advanced nodes, are often difficult to obtain for academic use, and access to the actual physical layouts is even more restricted. Furthermore, the necessary non disclosure agreements (NDAs) are un manageable for large university classes and the plethora of design rules can distract from the key points. NDAs also make it difficult for the publication of physical design as these may disclose proprietary design rules and structures.
This work focuses on the development of realistic PDKs for academic use that overcome these limitations. These PDKs, developed for the N7 and N5 nodes, even before 7 nm and 5 nm processes were available in industry, are thus predictive. The predictions have been based on publications of the continually improving lithography, as well as estimates of what would be available at N7 and N5. For the most part, these assumptions have been accurate with regards to N7, except for the expectation that extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography would be widely available, which has turned out to be optimistic.