Monthly Archives: February 2018

Microelectronics @ Delft

As the new quarter starts everyone in campus heads back to the lecture halls. This also means we have to choose new courses again. Quite a few interesting courses have been added to the timetable for the microelectronics program in this quarter. I am finding it difficult to choose among them; they are all so good!

I will explain the structure of the Microelectronics program at TU Delft (for the analog design track). In quarter 1 we had to choose three courses from among seven courses on offer. I chose Measurement and Instrumentation (M&I), Structured Electronic Design (SED) and Advanced Computing Systems (ACS). Apart from these courses we were free to choose other courses as well. Since I am interested in the bioelectronics applications of electronics, I also opted for Anatomy and Physiology. M&I and SED are the basics for the microelectronics program and so they were the obvious choices. M&I deals with the various instrumentation techniques, some of which were developed here in the university itself. SED deals with the design of amplifiers using MOS transistors and the proper approach to the design process to make it first-time-right. ACS is a unique course in which I learned how to compute complex problems using GPUs and parallelize my code to make it more efficient on multi-core CPUs.

House Full! (in 3mE) Courtesy: twitter.com/@EEMCS_TUD

In quarter 2 we looked a bit deeper into the semiconductor devices and their applications in Semiconductor Device Physics (SDP) , Analog CMOS Design 1 (ACD1) , Digital IC Design 1 (DID1) and Sensors and Actuators (S&A). SDP helped us understand how the diodes and transistors (bipolar and MOSFET) work. In ACD1 we learned the various techniques to design a single stage amplifier. DID1 showed the various factors to be taken into account while designing any digital IC. Even though I had worked previously on digital design this course showed me a whole new perspective to the design discipline. S&A is an interesting course which showcases many sensing and actuating devices for a wide range of applications. The instructors gave live demonstrations of the devices which made the lectures all the more interesting.

A typical Sensors and Actuators lecture!

Now in quarter 3 we have several courses which deal extensively in the applications of semiconductor devices and their related design methods. In Nyquist Rate Data Converters we are studying the operation and design of Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADCs) and Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs). In Introduction to Power Conversion Technologies we are studying the various circuit designs to transform power between AC-DC, DC-DC etc. In Analog CMOS Design 2 (second part of ACD1), we are studying about 2-stage amplifiers. The course is graded according to a project in which we design and submit an amplifier based on certain specifications. Similarly in Digital IC Design 2 we are required to design an optimised IC for a specific application. Themes in Biomedical Electronics is a course similar to Sensors and Actuators in which we look into various biomedical applications of electronics and the principles which are used to design and operate them. In Bioelectricity we are learning how the human body conducts electricity and how the nervous system operates as a circuit. It is quite an interesting course for an electronics engineer! Finally in Analog IC Design we are studying the techniques of designing ICs for specific analog operations. Apart from these courses we also have Advanced Microelectronics Packaging, VLSI Test Technology & Reliability, Microelectronics Reliability and Solid State Physics as well. I could have opted for these other courses too but I already have too many to handle.

the EWI building in all its glory

The structure of the microelectronics program is pretty balanced as it creates the basis on which the next courses are based. We are able to apply the knowledge from previous courses in the courses that we are following now. The courses I mentioned are the ones I followed or are relevant for me. Apart from these there are many other courses which are relevant for other tracks like quantum computing or RF. There are some mandatory courses as well such as Profile Orientation (Q1 and Q2) and System Engineering (Q3 and Q4). In Profile Orientation we had to write a literature survey and present on a technical topic as a group. These activities helped us learn about our mistakes and how to correct them. In System Engineering we are learning about the process, conditions and norms for product design. In the next quarter we will work in teams to design and present our product.

The coursework for Microelectronics is heavy and tough. It demands a lot of time and effort. But it rewards equally well. I have learnt quite a lot in these last two quarters. I look forward to the coming quarters when I will start working on my thesis project!

Exam Week Blues

The last two weeks were quite hectic and stressful for almost everyone on campus. Obviously, I am talking about the assessments that we had to attempt for our courses. I had to prepare for five assessments and I had four in this week itself! Luckily, I had started preparing a bit early. So I could be ready for all of them.

As the exam weeks approach, the campus becomes quieter and a lot less crowded. The crowd flocks to the library instead to hit the books and their notes. It becomes increasingly difficult to find a space even on the higher levels of the cone. But thankfully there are several other study spaces around campus made available specifically for this duration. The library hours are extended to 2 am as well, for all the owls who prefer the dark. The library staff do a commendable job to maintain the peace and quiet that everyone needs in the stressful time.

The cone @ Library. Picture Credits: Greenroofs.com

Every course has its own assessment method and so preparing for every course needs a different approach. For most of my courses I had to submit assignments that  contributed to about 30% of the final grade of the course. The assignments were quite helpful as I had to constantly update myself with the progress of the course rather than push everything till the exam time. Back home it was quite different. We used to study only during the exam time as we had no assignments to submit. That increased the stress during preparation as we had to start from scratch. Some of the assignments here were quite challenging which required more than one head working together to find the solution. It was fun doing the assignments together with my friends.

For some courses we could even choose the method of assessment. For the course ‘Sensors and Actuators’ taught by Prof. Paddy French we could choose between writing an essay, give an oral exam or a written exam. We could also apply for a resit in the next quarter if we didn’t do well in the exam. So there are several options to apply and improve.

Recorded Lectures on Collegerama

During preparation I had some good aids in the form of question papers and answers from previous years which were provided by the instructors on brightspace. They gave me a good idea about the level of understanding and preparation required for the exam. Many of the lectures are recorded and are available on collegerama. So I could watch some of the lectures that I had missed this quarter. These tools were quite helpful to prepare for the exams.

Now that the exams are over and it is spring break I have a week ahead to relax and work on my essay for the Sensors and Actuators course. Till next time!