Dr. Kai-Uwe Demasius is a chip developer and entrepreneur He took part in INVENT a CHIP 14 years ago (image right).

| Christian Thiel/VDE (l.), Hannibal/VDE (r.)
2023-06-30 publication

All about the chips

14 years ago, Dr. Kai-Uwe Demasius won an “INVENT a CHIP” award, which would prove to be the initial spark for his eventual career. Today, he develops energy-efficient AI chips at his own startup.

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According to the Shell Youth Study, young people’s favorite leisure activities include listening to music, meeting friends, surfing the Internet and watching movies and TV. If Shell had interviewed young Kai-Uwe Demasius in 2009, however, his answer would probably have been somewhat different. As an 18-year-old, he was more concerned with measuring electrostatic fields in his spare time. “Since the measuring devices were really large and cumbersome, I thought back then that it would be good to have a small chip that did the same thing,” says Demasius, as if this were the most normal preoccupation in the world for a young man of that age.

And he did more than just think about the concept. Although Demasius was still preparing for final exams at the renowned Domschule in Schleswig at the time, he still found time to design just such an electric field meter chip. Confident in his invention, he summarily entered the INVENT a CHIP school competition after reading about it in the newspaper. His initiative paid off: Demasius received a special prize for industry-related research.

From youthful enthusiasm to own company

“Participating in and winning the competition was a real motivation boost for me back then,” Demasius says today. “The competition got me really excited about microelectronics, which I then specialized in during my studies.” He was particularly impressed by all the different facets of the field – from physics and material development to analog and digital circuit development. That hasn’t changed much, either: after studying at TU Dresden and completing his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle (Saale), Demasius and a former classmate founded SEMRON GmbH in Dresden three years ago.

Using analog “CapRAM” cells, this startup designs circuits based on non-volatile memory technology with a capacitive coupling mechanism. Unlike today’s computers, which keep their memory and arithmetic functions strictly separate, these cells can both store data and solve computational tasks – like nerve cells in the human brain. The chips are also highly energy-efficient, which means they may someday be used for things like powering personal assistants in wearables. “New forms of human interaction will determine the future,” Demasius declares.

And what’s next for him? “We’re currently working on a system prototype that will be capable of implementing real neural networks,” he reports. It was this vision that recently convinced a renowned German company to enter into a development partnership with the nine-member startup. It appears that Demasius isn’t nearly finished writing his own success story – or that of INVENT a CHIP.