Europe’s first RISC-V chip comes to life – EPAC is meant for supercomputers, but this is just the beginning
We already have a European chip that has shown the famous “Hello World” on the screen. It’s about EPAC (European Processor ACcelerator), a chip with RISC-V architecture that has passed the first validation tests and is intended to be used in the field of supercomputing.
This chip is part of the European Processor Initiative (EPI), and although at the moment it is not going to win any power races, it is a fundamental first step that paves the way for the development of general-purpose RISC-V processors and even chips for the automotive industry.
Open Source RISC-V architecture is the key
Europe has been working on the development of its own chips for a long time, and one of the focuses is on achieving processors for their supercomputing centers. In these projects there is an absolute protagonist, and that is the RISC-V architecture, which thanks to its Open Source philosophy allows it to be used without commercial ties.
The European initiative was launched in 2018 and several supercomputing centers have collaborated in the development of the so-called EPAC 1.0. Between them Of course, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center stands out (BSC), but also institutions from Zagreb, Fraunhofer, ETH Zurich or Chalmers.
All of them have contributed to a choral project that has allowed us to have this first chip manufactured with 22 nm photolithography —Very far from the modern 5 nm chips from TSMC, Apple or Samsung— and that is a very important first step for the future of these projects.
EPAC is a chip intended for supercomputers, but EPI has two other fundamental aspects: production of a general purpose processor like the one we use in our laptops – its first iteration is expected to appear in 2022, which will mix RISC-V cores with ARM cores – and also the development of chips for the automotive industry and especially for autonomous driving systems.
At the moment the 143 EPAC chips manufactured by GlobalFoundries in this first batch have a target working frequency of 1 GHz, and are a relevant milestone for the future of a project that will allow the European Union depend (a little less) on the traditional giants of the semiconductor segment.
Vía | The Register