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Has SOI’s Turn Come Around Again?

Monday, October 10th, 2016

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By David Lammers, Contributing Editor

When analyst Linley Gwennap is asked about the chances that fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) technology will make it in the marketplace, he gives a short history lesson.

First, he makes clear that the discussion is not about “the older SOI,” – the partially depleted SOI that required designers to deal with the so-called “kink effect.” The FD-SOI being offered by STMicroelectronics and Samsung at 28nm design rules, and by GlobalFoundries at 22nm and 12nm, is a different animal: a fully depleted channel, new IP libraries, and no kink effect.

Bulk planar CMOS transistor scaling came to an end at 28nm, and leading-edge companies such as Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and GlobalFoundries moved into the finFET realm for performance-driven products, said Gwennap, founder of The Linley Group (Mountain View, Calif.) and publisher of The Microprocessor Report, said,

While FD-SOI at the 28nm node was offered by STMicrelectronics, with Samsung coming in as a second source, Gwennap said 28nm FD-SOI was not differentiated enough from 28nm bulk CMOS to justify the extra design and wafer costs. “When STMicro came out with 28 FD, it was more expensive than bulk CMOS, so the value proposition was not that great.”

NXP uses 28nm FD-SOI for its iMX 7 and iMX 8 processors, but relatively few other companies did 28nm FD-SOI designs. That may change as 22nm FD-SOI offers a boost in transistor density, and a roadmap to tighter design rules.

“For planar CMOS, Moore’s Law came to a dead end at 28nm. Some companies have looked at finFETs and decided that the cost barrier is just too high. They don’t have anywhere to go; for a few years now those companies have been at 28nm, they can’t justify the move on to finFETs, and they need to figure out how they can offer something new to their customers. For those companies, taking a risk on FD-SOI is starting to look like a good idea,” he said.

A cautious view

Joanne Itow, foundry analyst at Semico Research (Phoenix), also has been observing the ups and downs of SOI technology over the last two decades. The end of the early heyday, marked by PD-SOI-based products from IBM, Advanced Micro Devices, Freescale Semiconductor, and several game system vendors, has led Itow to take a cautious, Show-Me attitude.

“The SOI proponents always said, ‘this is the breakout node,’ but then it didn’t happen. Now, they are saying the Fmax has better results than finFETs, and while we do see some promising results, I’m not sure everybody knows what to do with it. And there may be bottlenecks,” such as the design tools and IP cores.

Itow said she has talked to more companies that are looking at FD-SOI, and some of them have teams designing products. “So we are seeing more serious activity than before,” Itow said. “I don’t see it being the main Qualcomm process for high-volume products like the applications processors in smartphones. But I do see it being looked at for IoT applications that will come on line in a couple of years. And these things always seem to take longer than you think,” she said.

Sony Corp. has publicly discussed a GPS IC based on 28nm FD-SOI that is being deployed in a smartwatch sold by Huami, a Chinese brand, which is touting the long battery life of the watch when the GPS function is turned on.

GlobalFoundries claims it has more than 50 companies in various stages of development on its 22FDX process, which enters risk production early next year, and the company plans a 12nm FDX offering in several years.

IP libraries put together

The availability of design libraries – both foundation IP and complex cores – is an issue facing FD-SOI. Gwennap said GlobalFoundries has worked with EDA partners, and invested in an IP development company, Invecas, to develop an IP library for its FDX technology. “Even though GlobalFoundries is basically starting from scratch in terms of putting together an IP library, it doesn’t take that long to put together the basic IP, such as the interface cells, that their customers need.

“There is definitely going to be an unusual thing that probably will not be in the existing library, something that either GlobalFoundries or the customers will have to put together. Over time, I believe that the IP portfolio will get built out,” Gwennap said.

The salaries paid to design engineers in Asia tend to be less than half of what U.S.-based designers are paid, he noted. That may open up companies “with a lower cost engineering team” in India, China, Taiwan, and elsewhere to “go off in a different direction” and experiment with FD-SOI, Gwennap said.

Philippe Flatresses, a design architect at STMicro, said with the existing FDSOI ecosystem it is possible to design a complete SoC, including processor cores from ARM Ltd., high speed interfaces, USB, MIPI, memory controllers, and other IP from third-party providers including Synopsys and Cadence. Looking at the FD-SOI roadmap, several technology derivatives are under development to address the RF, ultra-low voltage, and other markets. Flatresses said there is a need to extend the IP ecosystem in those areas.

Wafer costs not a big factor

There was a time when the approximately $500 cost for an SOI wafer from Soitec (Grenoble, France) tipped the scales away from SOI technology for some cost-sensitive applications. Gwennap said when a fully processed 28nm planar CMOS wafer cost about $3,000 from a major foundry, that $500 SOI wafer cost presented a stumbling block to some companies considering FD-SOI.

Now, however, a fully-processed finFET wafer costs $7,000 or more from the major foundries, Gwennap said, and the cost of the SOI wafer is a much smaller fraction of the total cost equation. When companies compare planar FD-SOI to finFETs, that $500 wafer cost, Gwennap said, “just isn’t as important as it used to be. And some of the other advantages in terms of cost savings or power savings are pretty attractive in markets where cost is important, such as consumer and IoT products. They present a good chance to get some key design wins.”

Soitec claims it can ramp up to 1.5 million FD-SOI wafers a year with its existing facility in 18 months, and has the ability to expand to 3 million wafers if market demand expands.

Jamie Schaeffer, the FDX program manager at GlobalFoundries, acknowledges that the SOI wafers are three to four times more expensive than bulk silicon wafers. Schaeffer said a more important cost factor is in the mask set. A 22FDX chip with eight metal layers can be constructed with “just 39 mask layers, compared with 60 for a finFET design at comparable performance levels.” And no double patterning is required for the 22FDX transistors.

Technology advantages claimed

Soitec senior fellow Bich-Yen Nguyen, who spent much of her career at Freescale Semiconductor in technology development, claims several technical advantages for FD-SOI.

FD-SOI has a high transconductance-to-drain current ratio, is superior in terms of the short channel effect, and has a lower fringing and effective capacitance and lower gate resistance, due partly to a gate-first process approach to the high-k/metal gate steps, Nguyen said.

Back and forward biasing is another unique feature of FD-SOI. “When you apply body-bias, the fT and fmax curves shift to a lower Vt.  This is an additional benefit allowing the RF designer to achieve higher fT and fmax at much lower gate voltage (Vg) over a wider Vg range.  That is a huge benefit for the RF designer,” she said. Figure 1 illustrates the unique benefit of back-bias.

Figure 1. The unique benefit of back-bias is illustrated. Source: GlobalFoundries.

“To get the full benefit of body bias for power savings or performance improvement, the design teams must consider this feature from the very beginning of product development,” she said. While biasing does not require specific EDA tools, and can be achieve with an extended library characterization, design architects must define the best corners for body bias in order to gain in performance and power. And design teams must implement “the right set of IPs to manage body biasing,” such as a BB generator, BB monitors, and during testing, a trimming methodology.

Nguyen acknowledged that finFETs have drive-current advantages. But compared with bulk CMOS, FD-SOI has superior electrostatics, which enables scaling of analog/RF devices while maintaining a high transistor gain. And drive current increases as gate length is scaled, she said.

For 14/16 nm finFETs, Nguyen said the gate length is in the 25-30 nm range. The 22FDX transistors have a gate length in the 20nm range. “The very short gate length results in a small gate capacitance, and total lower gate resistance,” she said.

For fringing capacitance, the most conservative number is that 22nm FD-SOI is 30 percent lower than leading finFETs, though she said “finFETs have made a lot of progress in this area.”

Analog advantages

It is in the analog and RF areas that FD-SOI offers the most significant advantages, Nguyen said. The fT and fMAX of 350 and 300 GHz, respectively, have been demonstrated by GlobalFoundries for its 22nm FD-SOI technology. For analog devices, she claimed that FD-SOI offers better transistor mismatch, high intrinsic device gain (Gm/Gds ratio), low noise, and flexibility in Vt tuning. Figure 2 shows how 22FDX outperforms finFETs for fT/fMax.

Figure 2. 22FDX outperforms finFETs for fT/fMax. Source: GlobalFoundries.

“FDSOI is the only device architecture that meets all those requirements. Bulk planar CMOS suffers from large transistor mismatch due to random dopant fluctuation and low device gain due to poor electrostatics. FinFET technology improves on electrostatics but it lacks the back bias capability.”

The undoped channel takes away the random doping effect of a partially depleted (doped) channel, reducing variation by 50-60 percent.

Analog designers using FD-SOI, she said, have “the ability to tune the Vt by back-bias to compensate for process mismatch or drift, and to offer virtually any Vt desired. Near-zero Vt can also be achieved in FD-SOI, which enables low voltage analog design for low power consumption applications.”

“If you believe the future is about mobility, about more communications and low power consumption and cost sensitive IoT chips where analog and RF is about 50 percent of the chip, then FD-SOI has a good future.

“No single solution can fit all. The key is to build up the ecosystem, and with time, we are pushing that,” she said.

Blog review December 16, 2014

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Maybe, just maybe, ASML Holding N.V. (ASML) has made the near-impossible a reality by creating a cost-effective Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV @ ~13.5nm wavelength) all-reflective lithographic tool. The company has announced that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC) has ordered two NXE:3350B EUV systems for delivery in 2015 with the intention to use those systems in production. In addition, two NXE:3300B systems already delivered to TSMC will be upgraded to NXE:3350B performance. While costs and throughputs are conspicuously not-mentioned, this is still an important step for the industry.

The good and the great of the electron device world will make their usual pilgrimage to San Francisco for the 2014 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting. Dick James of Chipworks writes that it’s the conference where companies strut their technology, and post some of the research that may make it into real product in the next few years.

The 4th Annual Global Interposer Technology Workshop at GaTech gathered 200 attendees from 11 countries to discuss the status of interposer technology. It has become the one meeting where you can find all the key interposer layers including those representing glass, laminate and silicon, blogs Phil Garrou.

Sharon C. Glotzer and Nicholas A. Kotov are both researchers at the University of Michigan who were just awarded a MRS Medal at the Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall Meeting in San Francisco for their work on “Integration of Computation and Experiment for Discovery and Design of Nanoparticle Self-Assembly.”

In order to keep pace with Moore’s Law, semiconductor market leaders have had to adopt increasingly challenging technology roadmaps, which are leading to new demands on electronic materials (EM) product quality for leading-edge chip manufacturing. Dr. Atul Athalye, Head of Technology, Linde Electronics, discusses the challenges.

ST further accelerates its FD-SOI ROs* by 2ps/stage, and reduces SRAM’s VMIN by an extra 70mV. IBM shows an apple-to-apple comparison of 10nm FinFETs on Bulk and SOI. AIST improves the energy efficiency of its FPGA by more than 10X and Nikon shows 2 wafers can be bonded with an overlay accuracy better than 250nm. Adele Hars reports.

Does your design’s interconnect have high enough wire width to withstand ESD? Frank Feng of Mentor Graphics writes in his blog that although applying DRC to check for ESD protection has been in use for a while, designers still struggle to perform this check, because a pure DRC approach can’t identify the direction of an electrical current flow, which means the check can’t directly differentiate the width or length of a wire polygon against a current flow.

At the recent IMAPS conference, Samsung electro-mechanics compared their Plated Mold Via Technology (PMV) to the well known Amkor Through Mold Via  (TMV) technology. The two process flows are compared. Phil Garrou reports.

Research Alert: December 9, 2014

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Soitec announces new world record for solar cell efficiency at 46%

Soitec and CEA-Leti, along with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, announced a new world record for the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity has been established. The record multi-junction solar cell converts 46 % of the solar light into electrical energy. Multi-junction cells are used in concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) systems to produce low-cost electricity in photovoltaic power plants, in regions with a large amount of direct solar radiation. The achievement of a new world record one year after the one previously announced in September 2013 by these French and German partners shows the strong competitiveness of the European photovoltaic research and industry.

Multi-junction solar cells are based on a selection of III-V compound semiconductor materials. The world record cell is a four-junction cell, and each of its sub-cells converts precisely one quarter of the incoming photons in the wavelength range between 300 and 1750 nm into electricity. When applied in concentrator PV, a very small cell is used with a Fresnel lens, which concentrates the sunlight onto the cell. The new record 46.0% efficiency was measured at a concentration of 508 suns and has been confirmed by the Japanese AIST (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology), one of the leading centers for independent verification of solar cell performance results under standard-testing conditions.

A special challenge that had to be met by this cell is the exact distribution of the photons among the four sub-cells. This has been achieved by precise tuning of the composition and thicknesses of each layer inside the cell structure. “This is a major milestone for our French-German collaboration. We are extremely pleased to hear that our result of 46% efficiency has now been independently confirmed by AIST in Japan”, explains Dr. Frank Dimroth, project manager for the cell development at the German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. “CPV is the most efficient solar technology today and suitable for all countries with high direct normal irradiance.”

Jocelyne Wasselin, Vice President Solar Cell Product Development for Soitec, a company headquartered in France and a world leader in high performance semiconductor materials, said: “We are very proud of this new world record. It confirms we made the right technology choice when we decided to develop this four-junction solar cell, and clearly indicates that we can demonstrate a 50% efficiency in the near future”.

She added: ”To produce this new generation of solar cells, we have already installed a line in France. It uses our bonding and layer-transfer technologies and already employs more than 25 engineers and technicians. I have no doubt that this successful cooperation with our French and German partners will drive further increase of CPV technology efficiency and competitiveness.”

New record solar cell on a 100 mm wafer yielding approximately 500 concentrator solar cell devices. ©Fraunhofer ISE/Photo Alexander Wekkeli

High photosensitivity 2-D-few-layered molybdenum diselenide phototransistors

Two-dimensional (2D) layered materials are now attracting a lot of interest due to their unique optoelectronic properties at atomic thicknesses. Among them, graphene has been mostly investigated, but the zero-gap nature of graphene limits its practical applications. Therefore, 2D layered materials with intrinsic band gaps such as MoS2, MoSe2, and MoTe2 are of interest as promising candidates for ultrathin and high-performance optoelectronic devices.

Here, Pil Ju Ko and colleagues at Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan have fabricated back-gated field-effect phototransistors made of MoSe2 crystals having a thickness of only twenty nanometers. The devices were fabricated by mechanical cleavage of MoSe2 crystals into few-layered flakes, followed by transfer onto a silicon wafer with pre-deposited titanium electrodes.

Despite their ultra-thin physical size, the devices showed excellent field-effect phototransistor characteristics. The measured photoresponsivity of 97.1 AW-1 at zero back gate voltage was higher than previous reports of photodetectors fabricated using GaS, GaSe, MoS2, and InSe. The photoresponse of the MoSe2 was much faster (less than 15 msec) than ultrasensitive photodetectors based on monolayer MoS2. Furthermore, the theoretical external quantum efficiency was 280-fold higher than of commercial Si and InGaAs photodiodes.

The research shows that MoSe2 is a promising material for photodetector applications. The group is optimization the device performance by studying thickness-dependent of the photosensitivity.

Finding the Achilles’ heel of GaN-based LEDs in harsh radiation environments

Gallium nitride (GaN) based devices are attractive for harsh environment electronics because of their high chemical and the mechanical stability of GaN itself that has a higher atomic displacement energy than other semiconductor materials.

However, degradation mechanisms of GaN device under radiation environments is not clear mainly because devices consist of many different types of semiconductors, such as p-type and n-type layers in light emitting diode (LED), and each layer has different hardness to radiation.

Now, researchers at the Electronics-Inspired Interdisciplinary Research Institute (EIIRIS) and Department of Electrical and Electronic Information Engineering at Toyohashi University of Technology, and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) describe the physical mechanism of an observed increase in the resistance of p-type GaN irradiated with 380 keV protons compared with n-type GaN.

The GaN-based LED structure shown in Fig.1 was irradiated with protons and the resulting electrical properties measured. Notably, the electrodes to measure the resistance of the p-type and n-type layers were produced independently using the clean room facilities at EIIRIS and the ion implanter in JAEA.

The two terminal resistance of the n-type GaN did not vary from its initial value after 1×1014 cm-2 proton irradiation, and remained of the same order after 1×1015 cm-2 protons. However, a clear increase of the resistance was found in the p-type GaN after 1×1014 cm-2 irradiation. The resistance increased further by six orders of magnitude after 1×1015 cm-2.

The observed increase of the resistance in p-type GaN is explained as being due to the lower initial carrier density than in n-type GaN due to a lack of efficient p-type doping technology for GaN, which is a key for the realization of novel devices operable in harsh environments.

This image depicts two-terminal resistance of p- and n-type GaN as a function of proton fluence. This inset shows schematic of sample, and lines are guide for eyes. Credit: Copyright (c) 2014 Toyohashi University of Technology.

Solid State Watch: November 25-December 4, 2014

Monday, December 8th, 2014
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RF and MEMS Technologies to Enable the IoT

Friday, October 24th, 2014

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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)

—E.K.

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.”

—E.K.

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.

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