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RF and MEMS Technologies to Enable the IoT

Friday, October 24th, 2014


By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor, Solid State Technology and SemiMD

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been seen as the next major market that will demand high volumes of integrated circuits (IC). The IoT can be loosely defined as a network of small, low-cost, ubiquitous electronic devices where sensing data and communicating information occurs without direct human intervention. Each device would function as a “smart node” in the network by doing some low-level signal processing to filter signals from noise, and to reduce the bandwidth needed for node-to-node communications. The nodes will need to communicate up to some manner of a “cloud” for secure memory storage and to bounce actionable information down to humans.

Figure 1 shows a conservative forecast of the global IoT market that was recently published by IDC. IDC expects the worldwide IoT installed base to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.5% from 2013 to 2020, starting from 9.1 billion smart nodes installed at the end of 2013 and growing to 28.1 billion units by 2020.

FIGURE 1: Forecast for global IoT applications revenue 2013-2020. Note that smart node “intelligent systems/devices” provide the foundation for this huge growing market. (Source: IDC)

Due to the anticipated elastic-demand for IoT devices that would come from cost reductions, the forecasts for the number of IoT nodes ranges to 50 billion or even 80 billion by the year 2020, as documented in the recent online Pete’s Post “Don’t Hack My Light Bulb, Bro”. The post also provides an excellent overview of recent discussions regarding the host of additional technology and business challenges associated with the enterprise infrastructure and security issues surrounding the integration of vast streams of new information.

As shown in Figure 1, the smart nodes form the foundation for the whole IoT. Consequently, the world will need low-cost high-volume manufacturing (HVM) technologies to create the different functionalites needed for smart nodes. Sensor- and logic-technologies to enable IoT smart nodes will generally evolve from existing IC applications, while R&D continues in Radio Frequency (RF) communications and in Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) energy harvesting.

RF Technology

IoT smart-nodes will use wireless RF technologies to communicate between themselves and with the “cloud.” In support of rapid growth in the 71-86 GHz RF “E-band” telecom backhaul segment—which transports data from cell sites in the peripheral radio access network (RAN) to the wireless packet core—Presto Engineering recently announced a non-captive production-scale testing service for 50µm-thin gallium arsenide wafers.

Silicon-On-Insulator (SOI) substrate supplier Soitec has excellent perspective on the global market for RF chips, since it’s High-Resistivity SOI (HR-SOI) wafers are widely used in commercial fabs. Bernard Aspar, senior vice president and general manager of the Communications and Power business unit of Soitec, explained to SemiMD in an exclusive interview why the market for RF chips is growing rapdily. RF front-end module unit sales are forecasted to increase at a CAGR of ~16% over the period of 2013-2017, while the area of silicon needing to be delivered could actually increase at ~30% CAGR. RF chips are increasing in average size due to the need to integrate multiple standards for wireless communications and multiple antenna switches. “The first components to be integrated in silicon were the antenna switches, moving from 70% on GaAs in 2010 to more than 80% on SOI in 2014,“ said Aspar.

Soitec claims that >80% of smart-phones today use an RF chip built on a wafer from the company, based on sales last year of >300k 200mm HR-SOI wafers. Due to anticipated future growth in RF demand, the company has plans to eventually move HR-SOI production to 300mm diameter wafers. Most of the anticipated demand will be for the company’s new variant of HR-SOI called eSI (“enhanced Signal Integrity”previously called “Trap Rich”) with a measured effective resistivity as high as 10 kOhm-cm for improved device performance.

This high-resistivity characteristic, which is conserved after a full CMOS process, translates to very low RF insertion loss (< 0.15 dB/mm at 1 GHz) and purely capacitive crosstalk similar to quartz substrates. HR-SOI substrates in general demonstrate reduced harmonics compared with standard SOI substrates, and the eSI wafers reduce harmonics to the point that they can be considered as lossless. Soitec was recently given a Best Partnership Award by Sony Semiconductor for supplying RF substrates.

“We’re also adding value to the substrate because it allows for simplification of the fab processing,” said Aspar. The eSI wafers enable much higher linearity and isolation, helping designers to address some of the most advanced LTE requirements at competitive costs. These substrates also provides benefits for the integration of passives, such as the quality factor of spiral inductors or tunable MEMS capacitors.

Vibrational Energy Harvesting

IoT smart nodes will need electrical power to function, and batteries that must be replaced or charged by an external source create issues for ubiquitous always-on small devices. In principle the ambient energies of the environment can be harvested to power smart nodes, and to do so we may consider using thermoelectric, photovoltaic, and piezoelectric properties of thin-films. Thermoelectric and photovoltaic devices both require somewhat specialized ambients for efficient energy harvesting, while piezoelectric devices can extract energy from subtle vibrations almost anywhere in the world (Fig. 2).

FIGURE 2: Schematic cross-section of piezoelectric cantilever with end mass, depicted in connection to an energy-harvesting circuit. (Source: Science)

Researchers in the Energy Harvesting and Mechatronics Research Lab at Stony Brook University, New York, recently published an excellent overview of the potential for 1 W to 100 kW piezoelectronic energy harvesting in building, automobiles, and wearables electronics in the Journal of Intelligent Material Systems and Structures 24(11) 1405-1430. However, the largest forecasted growth in the IoT is for small devices that would consume µW to mW of active power.

For low-cost and low-power consumption, the logic chips for IoT smart nodes are expected to be made using a 65nm “trailing edge” fab process. For example, CAST Inc. has developed a 32-bit BA20 embedded processor core that can deliver 3.41 CoreMarks/MHz at a maximum frequency of 75 MHz. Using TSMC’s 65nm Low Power fab process, it occupies only 0.01 mm2 of silicon area while consuming 2 µW/MHz. Thus, at maximum speed the chip core would consume just 150µW.

MicroGen Systems, Inc. (MicroGen) is a privately held company developing thin piezoelectric energy harvesters, based on technology from Cornell University’s NanoScale Science and Technology Facility. Founded in 2007, MicroGen has headquarters and R&D in the Ithaca and Rochester, NY areas, and volume manufacturing with X-FAB in Itzehoe, Germany. Figure 3 shows one of the company’s ~100 mm2 area chips featuring an aluminum nitride (AlN) peizoelectric thin-film on a cantilever that produces alternating current (AC) electricity in response to external vibrations. Different cantilever designs allow for harvesting energy from either single-frequency or broadband vibrations. At resonance the AC power output is maximized, so it can be ~100 µW at 120Hz and 0.1g, or ~900 µW at 600Hz and 0.5g.

FIGURE 3: BOLT™-R0600 energy-harvesting chip without packaging. The green-silver trapezoidal area is a 25-100µm thick cantilever (with several thin-film layers including an AlN piezoelectric) attached to grey rectangular end mass (silicon). A fixed-frequency device, at resonance of ~600Hz it can produce ~900 µWatts of AC power. (Source: MicroGen Systems)

For any piezoelectric energy harvester there are basic materials properties that must be optimized, including the piezoelectric strain constant as well as the electromechanical coupling factor of the thin-film to the moving mass. Lead-zirconium-titanate (PZT) has been the most studied piezoelectric thin-film due to high strain constant and ability to couple to a substrate though the use of buffer layers.

S. H. Baek, et al. showed “Piezoelectric MEMS with Giant Piezo Actuation” in Science 18 November 2011, Vol 344 using lead-manganese-niobate with lead-titanate (PMN-PT) layers epitaxially grown on a strontium-titanate (STO) buffer layer over 4°-off-axis(001)Si. Figure 4 shows both the transverse piezoelectric coefficient (C/m2) and the energy-harvesting figure of merit (GPa) for this and other thin-films. Note that to acheive stable “giant” piezoelectric effects the PMN-PT layer had to be grown epitaxially with precise control over the STO grain orientation.

FIGURE 4: Transverse piezoelectric coefficient (C/m2) and the energy-harvesting figure of merit (GPa) for PMN-PT (“this work”) and other piezoelectric thin-films. (Source: Science)


Blog review September 22, 2014

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Siobhan Kenney of Applied Materials reports that The Tech Museum of Innovation announced the ten recipients of the Tech Awards. Presented by Applied Materials, this is a global program honoring innovators who use technology to benefit humanity. These incredible Laureates are addressing some of the world’s most critical problems with creativity – in naming their organizations and in designing solutions to improve the way people live.

Jean-Pierre Aubert, RF Marketing Manager, STMicroelectronics says RF-SOI is good for more than integrating RF switches.  Other key functions typically found inside RF Front-End Modules (FEM) like power amplifiers (PA), RF Energy Management, low-noise amplifiers (LNA), and passives also benefit from integration.

Phil Garrou blogs Samsung finally announced that it has started mass producing 64 GB DDR4, dual Inline memory modules (RDIMMs) that use 3D TSV technology. The new memory modules are designed for use with enterprise servers and cloud base solutions as well as with data center solutions [link]. The release is timed to match the transition from DDR3 to DDR4 throughout the server market.

Stephen Whalley, Chief Strategy Officer, MEMS Industry Group, blogs about the inaugural MIG Conference Shanghai, September 11-12th, with their local partners, the Shanghai Industrial Technology Research Institute (SITRI) and the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT).  The theme was the Internet of Things and how the MEMS and Sensors supply chain needs to evolve to address the explosive growth in China.

SEMI praised the bipartisan effort in the United States House of Representatives to pass H.R. 2996, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act.  SEMI further urged the Senate to move quickly on the legislation that would create public private partnerships to establish institutes for manufacturing innovation.

Jeff Wilson, Mentor Graphics, writes that in integrated circuit (IC) design, we’re currently seeing the makings of a perfect storm when it comes to the growing complexity of fill. The driving factors contributing to the growth of this storm are the shrinking feature sizes and spacing requirements between fill shapes, new manufacturing processes that use fill to meet uniformity requirements, and larger design sizes that require more fill.

Zvi Or-Bach, president and CEO of MonolithIC 3D, blogs that at the upcoming 2014 IEEE S3S conference (October 6-9), MonolithIC 3D will unveil a breakthrough flow that is game-changing for 3D IC. For the first time ever monolithic 3D (“M3DI”) could be built using the existing fab and the existing transistor flow.

Blog review June 2, 2014

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

The Internet of Things alone will surpass the PC, tablet and phone market combined by 2017, with a global internet device installed base of around 7,500,000,000 devices. Speaking at ASMC, TSMC’s John Lin said in addition to a continued push to smaller geometries and ultra-low power, the company will focus on “special” technologies such as image sensor, embedded DRAMs, high-voltage power ICs, RF, analog, and embedded flash. “All this will support all of the future Internet of Things,” he said.

Kavita Shah of Applied Materials blogs about the company’s new Volta system. She says desighed to alleviate roadblocks to copper interconnect scaling beyond the 2Xnm node through two enabling applications—a conformal cobalt liner and a selective cobalt capping layer, which together completely encapsulate the copper wiring.

In an interview, Christophe Maleville, Senior Vice President of Soitec’s Microelectronics Business Unit, talks about why FD-SOI provides a much better combination of power consumption, performance and cost than any alternative. Talking about Samsung’s move to FDSOI, he said “at 28nm, FD-SOI gets them an unprecedented combination of performance and power consumption for a cost comparable to that of standard low-power 28nm technology, making 28FD an extremely attractive alternative to any flavor of bulk CMOS at this node.”

Phil Garrou continues his analysis of presentations from the recent SEMI 2.5/3D IC forum in Singapore. In his third blog post on the topic, he reviews Nanium’s presentation “Wafer Level Fan-Out as Fine-Pitch Interposer” which focused on the premise that FO-WLP technology, eWLB, has closed the gap caused by the delay in the introduction of Si or glass interposers as mainstream high volume commodity technology.

Vivek Bakshi blogs that it takes a large infrastructure to make EUVL a manufacturing technology. So many tool suppliers, large and small, want to know when EUVL will be inserted into fabs for production and how and how much it will be used. Their business depends on these answers and some, especially smaller suppliers, are getting cold feet as delays in EUVL readiness continue. The answers to these questions mostly depend on knowing what we can expect from sources in the short- and near term, but there are many additional questions one must ask as well.

Karen Lightman of the MEMS Industry Group blogs about recent events in Japan, including the MIG Conference Japan. The focus of the conference was on navigating the challenges of the global MEMS supply chain. Several of the speakers gave their no-holds-barred view of these challenges, including the keynote from Sony Communications, Takeshi Ito, Chief Technology Officer, Head of Technology, Sony Mobile Communications.

ST licenses 28nm FD-SOI to Samsung

Friday, May 16th, 2014

By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor, SST/SemiMD

On May 14, 2014 it was announced that STMicroelectronics and Samsung Electronics signed an agreement on 28nm Fully Depleted Silicon-on-Insulator (FD-SOI) technology for multi-source manufacturing collaboration. The agreement includes ST’s fully developed process technology and design enablement ecosystem from its 300mm facility in Crolles, France. The Samsung 28nm FD-SOI process will be qualified in early 2015 for volume production.

“Building upon the existing solid relationship between ST and Samsung within the framework of the International Semiconductor Development Alliance, this 28nm FD-SOI agreement expands the ecosystem and augments fab capacity for ST and the entire electronics industry,” said Jean-Marc Chery, COO, STMicroelectronics. “We foresee further expansion of the 28nm FD-SOI ecosystem, to include the leading EDA and IP suppliers, which will enrich the IP catalog available for 28nm FD-SOI.”

According to Handel Jones, founder and CEO of International Business Strategies Inc. (IBS), “The 28nm node will be long-lived; we expect it to represent approximately 4.3 million wafers in the 2017 timeframe, and FD-SOI could capture at least 25 percent of this market.”

Table 1 shows IBS data estimating costs for different 28nm fab process technologies.

“We are pleased to announce this 28nm FD-SOI collaboration with ST. This is an ideal solution for customers looking for extra performance and power efficiency at the 28nm node without having to migrate to 20nm,” said Dr. Seh-Woong Jeong, executive vice president of System LSI Business, Samsung Electronics. “28nm process technology is a highly productive process technology and expected to have a long life span based on well-established manufacturing capabilities.”

In June 2012, ST announced that GLOBALFOUNDRIES had joined the FD-SOI party for the 28nm and 20nm nodes. However, though the name has since changed from “20nm” to “14nm” (Table 2), work continues nonetheless with GLOBALFOUNDRIES on 14nm FD-SOI with prototyping and IP validation vehicles planned to run by the end of this year. Samsung has so far only licensed the 28nm node technology from ST. A representative of GLOBALFOUNDRIES reached for comment on this news expressed welcome to Samsung as an additional supplier in the FD-SOI ecosystem.

“Leti continues its development of further generations and our technology and design results show great promise for the 14nm and 10nm nodes,” said Laurent Malier, CEO of CEA-Leti (Laboratory for Electronics and Information Technology). Leti and ST are not against finFET technology, but sees it as complementary to SOI. In fact the ecosystem plans to add finFETs to the FD-SOI platform for the 10nm node, at which point Taiwanese foundry UMC plans to join.

FD-SOI Substrate Technology

Soitec, a world leader in generating and manufacturing revolutionary semiconductor materials for the electronics and energy industries, supplies most of the world’s SOI wafers. Paul Boudre, COO of Soitec, commented, “Our FD-SOI wafers represent an incredible technology achievement, resulting from over 10 years of continuous research and high-volume manufacturing expertise. With our two fabs and our licensing strategy, the supply chain is in place and we are very excited by this opportunity to provide the semiconductor industry with our smart substrates in high volume to enable widespread deployment of FD-SOI technology.”

Soitec’s R&D of ultra-thin SOI was partly funded and facilitated by the major French program called “Investments for the Future.” Soitec has collaborated with CEA-Leti on process evolution and characterization, with IBM Microelectronics for device validation and collaboration, and with STMicroelectronics to industrialize and demonstrate the first products.

Boudre, in an exclusive interview with SST/SemiMD, explained, “For 28nm node processing we use a 25+-1nm buried oxide layer, which is reduced in thickness to 20+-1nm when going to the 14nm node and we don’t see any differences in the substrate production. However, for the 10nm node the buried oxide layer needs to be 15nm thin, and we will need some new process steps to be able to embed nMOS strain into substrates.”


Blog review March 31, 2014

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Ofer Adan of Applied Materials blogs about his keynote presentation at the recent SPIE Advanced Lithography conference, which focused on how improvements in metrology, multi-patterning techniques and materials can enable 3D memory and the critical dimension (CD) scaling of device designs to sub-10nm nodes.

Soitec’s Bich-Yen Nguyen and Christophe Maleville detail why the fully-depleted SOI device/circuit is a unique option that can satisfy all the requirements of smart handheld devices and remote data storage “in the cloud.” Devices that are almost always on and driven by needs of high data transmission rate, instant access/connection and long battery life. Demonstrated benefits of FDSOI, including simpler fabrication and scalability are covered.

This year’s IMAPS Device Packaging Conference in Ft McDowell, AZ had a series of excellent keynote talks. Phil Garrou takes a look at some of those and several key presentations from the conference. Steve Bezuk, Sr. Dir. of Package Engineering for Qualcomm discussed “challenges and directions in mobile device packaging”. Qualcomm expects 7 billion smartphone units to be shipped between 2012 and 2017.

Karen Lightman of the MEMS Industry Group writes about the recent MEMS Executive Congress Europe 2014. She describes how every panelist shared not only the “everything’s-coming-up-MEMS” perspective but also some real honest discussion about the remaining challenges of getting MEMS devices to market on-time, and at (or below) cost.

Pete Singer shares some details of the upcoming R&D Panel Session at The ConFab this year. The session, to be moderated by Scott Jones of Alix Partners, will include panelists Rory McInerny of Intel, Chris Danely of JP Morgan, Mike Noonen of Silicon Catalyst and Lode Lauwers of imec.

Blog review March 10, 2014

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Pete Singer is pleased to announce that IBM’s Dr. Gary Patton will provide the keynote talk at The ConFab on Tuesday, June 24th. Gary is Vice President of IBM’s Semiconductor Research and Development Center in East Fishkill, New York, and has responsibility for IBM’s semiconductor R&D roadmap, operations, and technology development alliances.

Nag Patibandla of Applied Materials describes a half-day workshop at Lawrence Berkeley Lab that assembled experts to discuss challenges and identify opportunities for collaboration in semiconductor manufacturing including EUV lithography, advanced etch techniques, compound semiconductors, energy storage and materials engineering.

Adele Hars of Advanced Substrate News reports on a presentation by ST’s Joël Hartmann (EVP of Manufacturing and Process R&D, Embedded Processing Solutions) during SEMI’s recent ISS Europe Symposium. FD-SOI is significantly cheaper, outdoes planar bulk and matches bulk FinFET in the performance/power ratio, and keeps the industry on track with Moore’s Law, she writes.

Phil Garrou reports on the RTI- Architectures for Semiconductor Integration & Packaging (ASIP) conference, which is focused on commercial 3DIC technology. Timed for release at RTI ASIP was the announcement that Novati had purchased the Ziptronix facility outside RTP NC. Tezzaron had been a licensee of the Ziptronix’s direct bonding technologies, ZiBond™ and DBI® and they now have control of the Ziptronix facility to serve as a second source for their processing. In addition Tezzaron’s Robert Patti announced that they were partnering with Invensas on 2.5 and 3DIC assembly.

Vivek Bakshi, EUV Litho, Inc., blogs that most of the papers at this year’s EUVL Conference during SPIE’s 2014 Advanced Lithography program focused on topics relating to EUVL’s entrance into high volume manufacturing (HVM).

On March 2, 2014 SIA announced that worldwide sales of semiconductors reached $26.3 billion for the month of January 2014, an increase of 8.8% from January 2013 when sales were $24.2 billion. After adding in semiconductor sales from excluded companies such as Apple and Sandisk, that total is even higher, marking the industry’s highest-ever January sales total and the largest year-to-year increase in nearly three years. These results are in-line with the Semico IPI index which has been projecting strong semiconductor revenue growth for the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2014.

Blog review February 24, 2014

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Paul Farrar, general manager of the G450C consortium, said early work has demonstrated good results and that he sees no real barriers to implementing 450mm wafers from a technical standpoint. But as Pete Singer blogs, he also said: “In the end, if this isn’t cheaper, no one is going to do it,” he said.

Adele Hars of Advanced Substrate News reports that body-biasing design techniques, uniquely available in FD-SOI, have allowed STMicroelectronics and CEA-Leti to demonstrate a DSP that runs 10x faster than anything the industry’s seen before at ultra-low voltages.

Dr. Bruce McGaughy, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Engineering, ProPlus Design Solutions, Inc., says the move to state-of-the-art 28nm/20nm planar CMOS and 16nm FinFET technologies present greater challenges to yield than any previous generation. This is putting more emphasis on high sigma yield.

Jamie Girard, senior director, North America Public Policy, SEMI President Obama touched on many different policy areas during his State of the Union talk, and specifically mentioned a number of issues that are of top concern in the industry and with SEMI member companies. Among these are funding for federal R&D, including public-private partnerships, trade, high-skilled immigration reform, and solar energy.

Phil Garrou finishes his look at the IEEE 3DIC meeting, with an analysis of presentations from Tohoku University, Fujitsu’s wafer-on-wafer (WOW), ASE/Chiao Tung University and RTI. In another blog, Phil continues his review of the Georgia Tech Interposer conference, highlighting presentations from Corning, Schott Glass, Asahi Glass, Shinko, Altera, Zeon and Ushio.

Pete Singer recommends taking the new survey by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) but you may first want to give some thought as to what is and what isn’t “nanotechnology.”

Blog review January 21, 2014

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Zvi Or-Bach, President and CEO of MonolithIC 3D weighs in on the battle of Intel vs TSMC in the foundry space, after conflicting stories appeared. One said that Intel had a huge pricing advantage over TSMC, and a second story noted TSMC’s boast that it was “far superior” to Intel and Samsung as a partner fab.

Adele Hars looks back at 2013 from the SOI perspective. In this “Part 2” post, she focuses on developments that last year brought in the areas of RF-SOI and SOI-FinFETs. Part 1 focused on the general SOI picture. Stayed tuned for a look at 2014.

Phil Garrou reports on some of the key 3DIC presentations from the IEEE Internal Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), held in December in Washington, D.C. , focusing on papers from Micron, TSMC, Tohoku Univ., NC State and ASET. He said that Micron’s Naga Chandrasekaran addressed challenges in future memory manufacturing for both front end 3D NAND and back end 3DIC stacking, noting that he does not see any of the newer memory technologies making inroads against conventional DRAM or NAND in the next decade.

Blog review January 13, 2014

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Why is Silicon Valley the world center for innovation? How does innovation continue to thrive there? How do you create and maintain an innovative culture? These and other thought-provoking questions were the topics of discussion on a recent episode of Inside Silicon Valley, a public affairs program. Eric Witherspoon of Applied Materials blogs about these questions and various answers.

Adele Hars blogs that 2014 is going to be a terrific year for the greater SOI community, with 28nm FD-SOI ramping in volume and 14nm debuting, plus RF-SOI continuing its stellar rise. In this post she takes a look back at some of the SOI-related highlights from 2013.

Phil Garrou provides details on the most notable packaging papers presented at the 2013 IWLPC Conference held in San Jose CA this past fall, including those from Rudolph, Nanium and Deca. He also comments on the rumors that ASML has delayed its 450mm EUV efforts.

Pete Singer blogs from this week’s ISS. Keynote Rick Wallace, president and CEO of KLA-Tencor said the semiconductor industry could be approaching a “Concorde moment” where economic factors overtake technical capabiltiies. Wallace also sees a need to boost innovation, and suggests the way to best do that is encourage young people to get excited about the “magic behind the gadget.”

Why SOI is the Future Technology of Semiconductors

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Zvi Or-Bach, President & CEO of MonolithIC 3D, blogs that this is the “one learning” we can take away from IEDM 2013.

Let’s start with the short answer – because:

A. SOI is cheaper to fabricate than FinFet with comparable performance, and it is easier and cheaper to build FinFET on SOI which then provides better performance.

B. SOI is the natural technology for monolithic 3D IC for all overlaying transistor layers, and monolithic 3D is the most effective path to stay on Moore’s Law.

C. SOI, or better ‘XOI’, is the most efficient path for most of the new concepts such as alternate materials for transistor construction and other structures like nano-wires.

Let’s now elaborate and discuss each of these points.

Starting with A: The following chart from Globalfoundries was presented on June 2013 at the FD-SOI Workshop, Kyoto, Japan. The chart illustrates that the best cost per transistor is the classic polysilcon gate at the 28nm node, that FD-SOI is cheaper than bulk with comparable performance at 28nm HKMG, and that FD-SOI at 20nm is cheaper than 14nm FinFet at the same performance level.

Similar information was presented by IBS (International Business Strategies), in Oct 2013 at the SOI Summit Shanghai, China.

And before that D. Handel Jones of IBS in a 2012 White Paper presented the following table.

Clearly the SOI substrate costs much more than the bulk substrate ($500 vs. $120), but the improvement in performance and the reduction of cost associated with FD processing neutralizes the substrate costs and makes the SOI route far more attractive. The following charts were included in a Comparison Study of FinFET on SOI vs. Bulk done by IBM, IMEC, SOITEC and Freescale:

For the second point “B, SOI is the natural technology for monolithic 3D”, in monolithic 3D the upper semiconductor layer is very thin (<100nm) and is placed over oxide to isolate it from the interconnection structure underneath – hence SOI.

In this month’s IEDM 2013 two papers (9.3, 29.6) presented exciting demonstrations of monolithic 3D IC. It is interesting to note that Prof. Emeritus Chenming Hu of Berkeley (past TSMC CTO) who is now very famous due to his pioneering work on FinFETs, is a co-author of these two pioneering works on monolithic 3D IC. The following figures illustrate the natural SOI structure of the upper transistor layers:

In his invited paper at IEDM 2013 Geoffrey Yeap, VP of Technology at Qualcomm, articulates why monolithic 3D is most effective path for the semiconductor future: ” Monolithic 3D (M3D) is an emerging integration technology poised to reduce the gap significantly between transistors and interconnect delays to extend the semiconductor roadmap way beyond the 2D scaling trajectory predicted by Moore’s Law.” As illustrated by his Fig. 17 below.

Clearly dimensional scaling is not providing transistor cost reduction beyond the 28 nm node, and the large fabless companies—Qualcomm, Broadcom, Nvidia, and AMD—recently reported this fact once again. The industry is trying to accommodate this new reality, while still rushing to develop and adopt more advanced nodes at escalating costs and complexity. And it is encouraging to see that Qualcomm are actually ‘putting their money where their mouth is” as CEA Leti just recently announced an agreement with Qualcomm to Evaluate Leti’s Non-TSV 3D Process.

Thus it was natural for Leti to include in their presentation at their promotional event in conjunction with this year’s IEDM 2013, slides advocating monolithic 3D as an alternative to dimensional scaling.

Leti’s presentation goes even further. One can see that in the following Leti slide, monolithic 3D is positioned as a far better path to keep the industry momentum and provides the cost reduction that dimensional scaling does not provide any more. Monolithic 3D also does this with far less costly fab infrastructure and process R&D. As the slide sums up: “1 node gain without scaling,” or, as others may say, the new form of scaling is ‘scaling up’.

In respect to point C regarding integration of other materials, we must admit that this is still area of advanced research and contains many unknowns. What we do know is that the silicon related worldwide infrastructure is unparalleled and will not be easily replaced. Accordingly, future technologies would have the best chance by first integrating with the existing silicon infrastructure, which in many cases is easier to do with SOI. To illustrate this we can refer to some other work presented in the IEDM 2013. Such as Stanford work (19.7) titled: “Monolithic Three-Dimensional Integration of Carbon Nanotube FET Complementary Logic Circuits” illustrated in the following chart:

Other work is about integrating photonics with CMOS which was covered in a recent article titled Is There Light At The End Of Moore’s Tunnel? and includes the following illustrations:

Clearly SOI and monolithic 3D integration have a very important role for the future of the semiconductor industry. It is therefore fitting that the traditional IEEE conference on SOI has extended its scope and now calls itself S3S: SOI technology, 3D Integration, and Subthreshold Microelectronics. The 2014 S3S conference is scheduled for October 6-9, 2014 at the Westin San Francisco Airport. This new unified conference will help us to improve efficiency and establish this conference as a world class international venue to present and learn about the most up-to-date trends in CMOS and post-CMOS Scaling. The conference will provide both educational and cutting edge research in SOI and monolithic 3D and other supporting domains. These technologies were not part of the main stream semiconductor past; accordingly it is a golden opportunity to catch-up with these technologies now. Please mark your calendar for this opportunity to contribute and learn about SOI and monolithic 3D technology, as these technologies are well positioned to keep the semiconductor industry’s future momentum.

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