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I'm wondering if it is possible for an amateur (I have a physics background but not EE) to

  1. Learn how to design something like the CCD or cMOS or LCD
  2. Learn how to prepare the necessary files for the Fab (like TSMC) to produce my design

What is the best way of learning these? Are there any good tutorials or examples I can follow, or what kind of courses should I take if I'm in a university?

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    \$\begingroup\$ CCD and LCD are unusual choices for DIY. You are aware that fabs are very expensive? However, digital hardware design is definintely the sort of thing that's offered as a university course. \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Mar 4 '14 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd start by tracking down a fab plant that will entertain the idea of the project and ask them what they advise. I suspect most won't get out of bed for less than a suitcase full of money, but you never know which kind soul may take pity on a keen student if you approach politely. \$\endgroup\$ – John U Mar 4 '14 at 14:54
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Yes, it is possible. Yes, it is expensive.

Most fabs will need the design on a mask, to get the data onto a mask you should provide it in an industry standard of GDSII or OASIS.

TSMC will probably make a multi die wafer with your design being only one of ~200-4000 dies on the whole wafer. It will be manufactured with similar devices, sorted by die size and process.

The software is out there, most is expensive, but there are other options. Klayout will allow you to draw the patterns, but testing the structures and making sure the device does what you want would be a huge test suite of software.

The point being if you already know what to do for the design, using off the shelf freeware is ok, but there are a lot of complexities (hence huge corporations) to get everything right. The fab can help but they will charge you a lot.

As far as courses- digital design, analog signal processing, device physics, signals and systems. Those are the starting point. After those courses you will have fairly good base knowledge to expand it to the exact things you want to know.

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Here is a design platform. Freeware. http://opencircuitdesign.com/magic/

Here are 3 CCD specimen source files. Magic compatible. http://www.filewatcher.com/p/magic-doc-8.0.60-4.fc18.x86_64.rpm.784608/usr/share/doc/magic-doc-8.0.60/scmos/examples/ccd-0.htm

Here is a simulation environment. Freeware & compatible with those specimen. http://www.linear.com/designtools/software/#LTspice

I made it all work under windows XP. I can compile & execute simulation. But it behaves like a package of capacitors only. Perhaps can we investigate together.

those specimen were written by http://www.filewatcher.com/p/magic-doc-8.0.60-4.fc18.x86_64.rpm.784608/usr/share/doc/magic-doc-8.0.60/scmos/COPYRIGHT.html

if you are US citizen, perhaps you can ask him if/how he get better results. Otherwise, I know that Elco (from Mentor Graphics) enables design and simulation of CCD but it's expensive software.

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