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Silicon Summit speakers look at the future of chip technology

Friday, April 17th, 2015
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Gregg Bartlett

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Quick quiz: What topics do you think were discussed at length Wednesday at the Global Semiconductor Alliance’s Silicon Summit?

A. The Internet of Things.

B. Augmented reality and virtual reality.

C. Cute accessories for spring and summer looks.

The answers: A and B. C could be right if you count wearable electronics as “cute accessories.”

Wednesday’s forum at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., not far from  Google’s headquarters, was dominated by talk of IoT, AR, VR, and (to a lesser extent) wearable devices.

Gregg Bartlett, senior vice president of the Product Management Group at GlobalFoundries, kicked off the morning sessions with a talk titled “IoT: A Silicon Perspective.” He said, “A lot of the work left in IoT is in the edge world.”

Bartlett noted, “A lot of the infrastructure is in place,” yet the lack of IoT standards is inhibiting development, he asserted.

“IoT demands the continuation of Moore’s Law,” Bartlett said, touting fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator technology as a cost-effective alternative to FinFET technology. FD-SOI “is the killer technology for IoT,” he added.

Next up was James Stansberry, senior vice president and general manager of IoT Products at Silicon Laboratories. Energy efficiency is crucial for IoT-related devices, which must be able to operate for 10 years with little or no external power, he said.

Bluetooth Smart, Thread, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee provide the connectivity in IoT networks, with a future role for Long-Term Evolution, according to Stansberry. He also played up the importance of integration in connected devices. “Nonvolatile memory has to go on the chip” for an IoT system-on-a-chip device, he said.

For 2015, Stansberry predicted a dramatic reduction in energy consumption for IoT devices; low-power connectivity standards will gain traction; and the emergence of more IoT SoCs.

Rahul Patel, Broadcom’s senior vice president and general manager of wireless connectivity, addressed health-care applications for the IoT. “Security is key,” he said. Reliability, interoperability, and compliance with government regulations are also required, Patel noted.

“My agenda is to scare everyone to death,” said Martin Scott, senior vice president and general manager of the Cryptography Research Division at Rambus. Cybersecurity with the IoT is causing much anxiety, he noted. “Silicon can come to the rescue again,” he said. “If your system relies on software, it’s hackable.”

To build trust in IoT devices and networks, the industry needs to turn to silicon-based security, according to Scott. “Silicon is the foundation of trusted services,” he concluded.

The second morning session was titled “The Future of Reality,” with presentations by Keith Witek, corporate vice president, Office of Corporate Strategy, Advanced Micro Devices; Mats Johansson, CEO of EON Reality; and Joerg Tewes, CEO of Avegant.

Augmented reality and virtual reality technology is “incredibly exciting,” Witek said. “I love this business.” He outlined four technical challenges for VR in the near future: Improving performance; ensuring low latency of images; high-quality consistency of media; and system-level advances. “Wireless has to improve,” Witek said.

VR is “starting to become a volume market,” Johansson said. What matters now is proceeding “from phone to dome,” where immersive experiences meet knowledge transfer, he added. Superdata, a market research firm, estimates there will be 11 million VR users by next year, according to Johansson.

Avegant had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year to fund its Glyph VR headset, with product delivery expected in late 2015, Tewes said. The Glyph has been in development for three years, he said, employing digital micromirror device technology, low-power light-emitting diodes, and latency of less than 12 microseconds to reduce or eliminate the nausea that some VR users have experienced, he said.

The afternoon session was devoted to “MEMS and Sensors, Shaping the Future of the IoT.” Attendees heard from Todd Miller, Microsystems Lab Manager at GE Global Research; Behrooz Abdi, president and CEO of InvenSense; Steve Pancoast, Atmel’s vice president of software and applications; and David Allan, president and chief operating officer of Virtuix.

Miller outlined the challenges for the industrial Internet – cybersecurity, interoperability, performance, and scale. “Open standards need to continue,” he said.

General Electric and other companies, including Intel, are involved in the Industrial Internet Consortium, which is developing use cases and test beds in the area, according to Miller.

He noted that GE plans to begin shipping its microelectromechanical system devices to external customers in the fourth quarter of this year.

Abdi said, “What is the thing in the Internet of Things? The IoT is really about ambient computing.” IoT sensors must continuously answer these questions: Where are you, what are you doing, and how does it feel, he said.

The IoT will depend upon “always on” sensors, making it more accurate to call the technology “the Internet of Sensors,” Abdi asserted. He cautioned against semiconductor suppliers getting too giddy about business prospects for the IoT.

“You’re not going to sell one billion sensors for a buck [each],” Abdi said.

Pancoast of Atmel said sensors would help provide “contextual computing” in IoT networks. “Edge/sensing nodes are a major part of IoT,” he noted. Low-power microcontrollers and microprocessors are also part of the equation, along with “an ocean of software” and all IoT applications, Pancoast added. He finished with saying, “All software is vulnerable.”

Allan spoke about what he called “the second machine age,” with the first machine age dating to 1945, marking the advent of the stored-program computer and other advances. “The smartphone is the first machine of the second machine age,” he said.

IoT involves wireless sensor networks and distributed computing, he said. Google has pointed the way over the past decade, showing how less-powerful computers, implemented in large volumes, have become the critical development in computing, Allan noted. Because of this ubiquity of distributed computing capabilities, “Moore’s Law doesn’t matter as much,” he said.

With the IoT, “new machines will augment human desires,” Allan predicted, facilitating such concepts as immortality, omniscience, telepathy, and teleportation. He explained how technology has helped along the first three – we know what people are thinking through Facebook and Twitter – and the last is just a matter of time, according to Allan.

Solid State Watch: March 20-26, 2015

Thursday, March 26th, 2015
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Blog review March 9, 2015

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Pete Singer is delighted to announce the keynotes and other speakers for The ConFab 2015, to be held May 19-22 at The Encore at The Wynn in Las Vegas. The line-up includes Ali Sebt, President and CEO of Renesas America, Paolo Gargini, Chairman of the ITRS and Subramani Kengeri, Vice President, Global Design Solutions at GLOBALFOUNDRIES.

Mark Simmons, Product Marketing Manager, Calibre Manufacturing Group, Mentor Graphics writes about cutting fab costs and turn-around time with smart, automated resource management. He notes that the competition for market share is brutal for both the pure-play and independent device manufacturer (IDM) foundries. Success involves tuning a lot of knobs and dials. One of the important knobs is the ability to continually meet or exceed aggressive time-to-market schedules.

Paul Stockman, Commercialization Manager, Linde Electronics blogs that there is an increasing demand for and focus on sustainable manufacturing that will contribute to a greening of semiconductors. This greening must be robust and responsive to change and cannot constrain the individual processes or operation of a fab.

Applied Materials’ Max McDaniel writes on the quest for more durable displays. He says the same innovators who created such amazingly thin, light and highly functional smartphones (with the help of Applied Materials display technology) are already developing durability improvements that may eliminate the need for protective covers.

Batteries? We don’t need no stinking batteries, says Ed Korczynski. We’re still used to thinking that low-power chips for “mobile” or “Internet-of-Things (IoT)” applications will be battery powered…but the near ubiquity of lithium-ion cells powering batteries could be threatened by capacitors and energy-harvesting circuits connected to photovoltaic/thermoelectric/piezoelectric micro-power sources.

With the 2015 SPIE Advanced Lithography (AL) conference around the corner, some people have asked me what remaining EUVL challenges need to be addressed to ensure it will be ready for mass production later this year or next.  Vivek Bakshi of EUV Litho, Inc. provides thoughts on this topic and what he expects to hear at the conference.

Phil Garrou continues his look at presentations from the Grenoble SEMI 3D Summit which took place in January, focusing on an interesting presentation by ATREG consultants on the future of Assembly & Test.

On Tuesday, January 20, President Obama once again stood before a joint session of Congress to deliver a State of the Union Address.  With the newly seated Republican-controlled Congress and his Cabinet present, the President discussed topics ranging from the current state of the economy to foreign affairs and his ideas on how to move the nation forward.  Jamie Girard of SEMI was pleased to hear that the President supported multiple policy goals including expansion of free trade, corporate tax reform, support for basic science research and development and others.

Solid State Watch: February 13-19, 2015

Friday, February 20th, 2015
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5nm Node Needs EUV for Economics

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

#mce_temp_url#

At IEDM 2014 last month in San Francisco, Applied Materials sponsored an evening panel discussion on the theme of “How do we continue past 7nm?” Given that leading fabs are now ramping 14nm node processes, and exploring manufacturing options for the 10nm node, “past 7nm” means 5nm node processing. There are many device options possible, but cost-effective manufacturing at this scale will require Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV) lithography to avoid the costs of quadruple-patterning.

Fig. 1: Panelists discuss future IC manufacturing and design possibilities in San Francisco on December 16, 2014. (Source: Pete Singer)

Figure 1 shows the panel being moderated by Professor Mark Rodwell of the University of California Santa Barbara, composed of the following industry experts:

  • Karim Arabi, Ph.D. – vice president, engineering, Qualcomm,
  • Michael Guillorn, Ph.D. – research staff member, IBM,
  • Witek Maszara, Ph.D. – distinguished member of technical staff, GLOBALFOUNDRIES,
  • Aaron Thean, Ph.D. – vice president, logic process technologies, imec, and
  • Satheesh Kuppurao, Ph.D. – vice president, front end products group, Applied Materials.

Arabi said that from the design perspective the overarching concern is to keep “innovating at the edge” of instantaneous and mobile processing. At the transistor level, the 10nm node process will be similar to that at the 14nm node, though perhaps with alternate channels. The 7nm node will be an inflection point with more innovation needed such as gate-all-around (GAA) nanowires in a horizontal array. By the 5nm node there’s no way to avoid tunnel FETs and III-V channels and possibly vertical nanowires, though self-heating issues could become very challenging. There’s no shortage of good ideas in the front end and lots of optimism that we’ll be able to make the transistors somehow, but the situation in the backend of on-chip metal interconnect is looking like it could become a bottleneck.

Guillorn extolled the virtues of embedded-memory to accelerate logic functions, as a great example of co-optimization at the chip level providing a real boost in performance at the system level. The infection at 7nm and beyond could lead to GAA Carbon Nano-Tube (CNT) as the minimum functional device. It’s limited to think about future devices only in terms of dimensional shrinks, since much of the performance improvement will come from new materials and new device and technology integration. In addition to concerns with interconnects, maintaining acceptable resistance in transistor contacts will be very difficult with reduced contact areas.

Maszara provided target numbers for a 5nm node technology to provide a 50% area shrink over 7nm:  gate pitch of 30nm, and interconnect level Metal 1 (M1) pitch of 20nm. To reach those targets, GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ cost models show that EUV with ~0.5 N.A. would be needed. Even if much of the lithography could use some manner of Directed Self-Assembly (DSA), EUV would still be needed for cut-masks and contacts. In terms of device performance, either finFET or nanowires could provide desired off current but the challenge then becomes how to get the on current for intended mobile applications? Alternative channels with high mobility materials could work but it remains to be seen how they will be integrated. A rough calculation of cost is the number of mask layers, and for 5nm node processing the cost/transistor could still go down if the industry has ideal EUV. Otherwise, the only affordable way to go may be stay at 7nm node specs but do transistor stacking.

Thein detailed why electrostatic scaling is a key factor. Parasitics will be extraordinary for any 5nm node devices due to the intrinsically higher number of surfaces and junctions within the same volume. Just the parasitic capacitances at 7nm are modeled as being 75% of the total capacitance of the chip. The device trend from planar to finFET to nanowires means proportionally increasing relative surface areas, which results in inherently greater sensitivity to surface-defects and interface-traps. Scaling to smaller structures may not help you if you loose most of the current and voltage in non-useful traps and defects, and that has already been seen in comparisons of III-V finFETs and nanowires. Also, 2D scaling of CMOS gates is not sustainable, and so one motivation for considering vertical transistors for logic at 5nm would be to allow for 20nm gates at 30nm pitch.

Kappurao reminded attendees that while there is still uncertainty regarding the device structures beyond 7nm, there is certainty in 4 trends for equipment processes the industry will need:

  1. everything is an interface requiring precision materials engineering,
  2. film depositions are either atomic-layer or selective films or even lattice-matched,
  3. pattern definition using dry selective-removal and directed self-assembly, and
  4. architecture in 3D means high aspect-ratio processing and non-equilibrium processing.

An example of non-equilibrium processing is single-wafer rapid-thermal-annealers (RTA) that today run for nanoseconds—providing the same or even better performance than equilibrium. Figure 2 shows that a cobalt-liner for copper lines along with a selective-cobalt cap provides a 10x improvement in electromigration compared to the previous process-of-record, which is an example of precision materials engineering solving scaling performance issues.

Fig. 2: ElectroMigration (EM) lifetimes for on-chip interconnects made with either conventional Cu or Cu lined and capped with Co, showing 10 times improvement with the latter. (Source: Applied Materials)

“We have to figure out how to control these materials,” reminded Kappurao. “At 5nm we’re talking about atomic precision, and we have to invent technologies that can control these things reliably in a manufacturable manner.” Whether it’s channel or contact or gate or interconnect, all the materials are going to change as we keep adding more functionality at smaller device sizes.

There is tremendous momentum in the industry behind density scaling, but when economic limits of 2D scaling are reached then designers will have to start working on 3D monolithic. It is likely that the industry will need even more integration of design and manufacturing, because it will be very challenging to keep the cost-per-function decreasing. After CMOS there are still many options for new devices to arrive in the form of spintronics or tunnel-FETs or quantum-dots.

However, Arabi reminded attendees as to why the industry has stayed with CMOS digital synchronous technology leading to design tools and a manufacturing roadmap in an ecosystem. “The industry hit a jackpot with CMOS digital. Let’s face it, we have not even been able to do asynchronous logic…even though people tried it for many years. My prediction is we’ll go as far as we can until we hit atomic limits.”

Solid State Watch: December 12-19, 2014

Saturday, December 20th, 2014
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Solid State Watch: October 31-November 6, 2014

Monday, November 10th, 2014
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Solid State Watch: October 23-30, 2014

Friday, October 31st, 2014
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The Week in Review: October 24, 2014

Friday, October 24th, 2014

IBM and GLOBALFOUNDRIES this week announced that GLOBALFOUNDRIES will acquire IBM’s global commercial semiconductor technology business, including IBM’s intellectual property, technologists and technologies. IBM will pay GLOBALFOUNDRIES $1.5 billion in cash over the next three years to take the chip operations off its hands. The cash consideration will be adjusted by the amount of working capital which is estimated to be $200 million.

Capped by last week’s announcement that Qualcomm Inc. would buy CSR PLC, the automotive semiconductor industry recently has been undergoing a wave of merger and acquisition activity that has shaken up the competitive order of the market, according to IHS Technology.

Adlyte Inc., a developer of high-brightness extreme light sources for advanced semiconductor inspection and metrology applications, announced it has reached a key performance benchmark for its extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light source for high-volume manufacturing (HVM)-readiness.

Gigaphoton Inc., a lithography light source manufacturer, announced that it has succeeded in achieving 3-hour continuous operation of its prototype LPP EUV light source at 50 percent duty cycle and 42-W output, equivalent to usage in a high-volume-manufacturing (HVM) environment.

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $1.17 billion in orders worldwide in September 2014 (three-month average basis) and a book-to-bill ratio of 0.94, according to the September EMDS Book-to-Bill Report published today by SEMI.   A book-to-bill of 0.94 means that $94 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product billed for the month.

Blog review October 20, 2014

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Matthew Hogan of Mentor Graphics blogs about how automotive opportunities are presenting new challenges for IC verification. A common theme for safety systems involves increasingly complex ICs and the need for exceptional reliability.

Anish Tolia of Linde blogs that technology changes in semiconductor processing and demands for higher-purity and better-characterized electronic materials have driven the need for advanced analytical metrology. Apart from focusing on major assay components, which are the impurities detailed in a Certificate of Analysis (CoA), some customers are also asking that minor assay components or other trace impurities must be controlled for critical materials used in advanced device manufacturing.

Karey Holland of Techcet provides an excellent review of SEMI’s Strategic Materials Conference. The keynote presentation, “Materials Innovation for the Digital 6th Sense Era,” was by Matt Nowak of Qualcomm. He discussed both the vision of the Internet of Things (IoT), the required IC devices (including analog & sensors) and implications to materials (and cost to manufacture) from these new IC devices.

The age of the Internet of Things is upon us, blogs Pete Singer. There are, of course, two aspects of IoT. One is at what you might call the sensor level, where small, low power devices are gathering data and communicating with one another and the “cloud.” The other is the cloud itself. One key aspect will be security, even for low-level devices such as the web-connected light bulb. Don’t hack my light bulb, bro!

Linde Electronics has developed the TLIMS/SQC System. Anish Tolia writes that this system includes an information management database plus SQC/SPC software and delivers connectivity with SAP, electronically pulling order information from SAP to TLIMS and pushing CoA data from TLIMS to SAP.

Ed Korczynski blogs about how IBM researchers showed the ability to grow sheets of graphene on the surface of 100mm-diameter SiC wafers, the further abilitity to grow epitaxial single-crystalline films such as 2.5-μm-thick GaN on the graphene, the even greater ability to then transfer the grown GaN film to any arbitrary substrate, and the complete proof-of-manufacturing-concept of using this to make blue LEDs.

Phil Garrou says it’s been awhile since we looked at what is new in the polymer dielectric market so he checked with a number of dielectric suppliers – specifically Dow Corning, HD Micro and Zeon — and asked what was new in their product lines.

Karen Lightman, Executive Director, MEMS Industry Group, had the pleasure to learn more about the challenges and opportunities affecting MEMS packaging at a recent International Microelectronics Assembly and Packaging Society (IMAPS) workshop held in her hometown of Pittsburgh and at her alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

Ed Korczynski blogs that The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 was awarded jointly to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.”

Yes, GlobalFoundries is hot on FD-SOI. Yes, Qualcomm’s interested in it for IoT. Yes, ST’s got more amazing low-power FD-SOI results. These are just some of the highlights that came out of the Low Power Conference during Semicon Europa in Grenoble, France (7-9 October 2014) blogs Adele Hars.

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