Silicon Industry News

Latest news from the semiconductor industry

Computer Chip Visionaries Win Turing Award

From The New York Times:
SAN FRANCISCO — In 1980, Dave Patterson, a computer science professor, looked at the future of the world’s digital machines and saw their limits.
With an academic paper published that October, he argued that the silicon chips at the heart of these machines were growing more complex with each passing year. But the machines, he argued, could become more powerful if they used a simpler type of computer chip.
This counterintuitive idea spread across Silicon Valley, driven by the work of Mr. Patterson at the University of California in Berkeley and a second academic, John Hennessy, about 40 miles away at Stanford University. They called it RISC, short for “reduced instruction set computer.”
On Wednesday, the Association for Computing Machinery, the venerable computing society that represents industry professionals across the world, announced that Mr. Patterson and Mr. Hennessy had won this year’s Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing. They will share a $1 million cash prize.
Named for the British mathematician and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, the award carries an added resonance this year, as the chip industry takes another step toward the kind of future envisioned by Mr. Patterson and Mr. Hennessy.

Today, more than 99 percent of all […]

March 21st, 2018|General News Feed|

Researchers improve fabrication process of nano-structures for electronic devices


Researchers at RIT have found a more efficient fabricating process to produce semiconductors used in today’s electronic devices. They also confirmed that materials other than silicon can be used successfully in the development process that could increase performance of electronic devices. This fabrication process—the I-MacEtch, or inverse metal-assisted chemical etching method—can help meet the growing demand for more powerful and reliable nano-technologies needed for solar cells, smartphones, telecommunications grids and new applications in photonics and quantum computing.

“What is novel about our work is that for the first time we are looking at applying I-MacEtch processing to indium-gallium-phosphide materials. I-MacEtch is an alternative to two conventional approaches and is a technique that has been used in the field—but the materials that have been explored are fairly limited,” said Parsian Mohseni, assistant professor of microsystems engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. He is also director of the EINS Laboratory at the university.

Demands for improved computer processing power have led researchers to explore both new processes and other materials beyond silicon to produce electronic components, Mohseni explained. The I-MacEtch process combines the benefits of two traditional methods—wet etching and reactive ion etching, or REI. Indium-gallium-phosphide is one of several materials being tested […]

March 21st, 2018|General News Feed|

Optical computers light up the horizon


Since their invention, computers have become faster and faster, as a result of our ability to increase the number of transistors on a processor chip.

Today, your smartphone is millions of times faster than the computers NASA used to put the first man on the moon in 1969. It even outperforms the most famous supercomputers from the 1990s. However, we are approaching the limits of this electronic technology, and now we see an interesting development: light and lasers are taking over electronics in computers.

Processors can now contain tiny lasers and light detectors, so they can send and receive data through small optical fibres, at speeds far exceeding the copper lines we use now. A few companies are even developing optical processors: chips that use laser light and optical switches, instead of currents and electronic transistors, to do calculations.

So, let us first take a closer look at why our current technology is running out of steam. And then, of course, answer the main question: when can you buy that optical computer?

Moore’s Law is dying

Computers work with ones and zeros for all their calculations and transistors are the little switches that make that happen. Current processor chips, or integrated circuits, consist of billions […]

March 20th, 2018|General News Feed|

Wafer Demand: Under Pressure But Still Growing

From Semiconductor Engineering:

Wafer demand grew 10.7% in 2017 while total semiconductor units grew 13.4%. Due to the tight supply of silicon wafers and increased prices, most manufactures placed an even higher priority on improving yields. The industry’s focus on yield improvements is relentless but especially important when the cost of key input materials is on the rise.

In 2017 the semiconductor products that consumed the most silicon included analog, NAND, communication MOS logic, microcontrollers, and other MOS logic (automotive, consumer, multipurpose, etc.). It is interesting to note two major shifts in terms of the largest users of silicon.
2017 Wafer Demand By Product

In 2017, analog products surpassed NAND in terms of the amount of silicon required to produce all the analog units. This has not happened since 2010. Analog units increased 16.5% in 2017 while NAND units only increased 1.5%. It is interesting to note that the Analog products experiencing higher growth rates were products with lower ASP’s. This atypical type of high growth is usually characteristic of periods of inventory build for low ASP products. In 2018, analog units are expected to grow 5.3% while wafer demand will increase only 4.3%. In addition to a limited amount of 200mm capacity, […]

March 20th, 2018|General News Feed|

Indium arsenide channel transistors for mm-wave and high-speed applications

From Semiconductor Today:

University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the USA claims a record 420GHz maximum oscillation frequency (fmax) for a III-V metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) based on indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) layers on semi-insulating iron-doped (100) indium phosphide (InP:Fe) substrate [Jun Wu et al, IEEE Electron Device Letters, published online 8 February 2018]. The conduction channel was InAs.

The design reduced parasitic gate-source and gate-drain capacitances through increasing the lateral modulation-doped access region, giving a wider separation of the gate and source-drain regions. The researchers see the devices as promising candidates for high-speed applications, particularly millimeter (mm)-wave.

Metal-organic vapor phase epitaxy deposited a 10nm unintentionally doped (U.I.D.) InP buffer, 2nm silicon-doped InP (δ-doping), 2nm U.I,D InP spacer, 5nm strained InAs channel, and a 3nm U.I.D. In0.53Ga0.47As cap (Figure 1). A low growth temperature of 500°C was used for the channel layer, along with a low 7.8 V/III ratio.

A dummy gate of hydrogen silesequioxane (HSQ) was fabricated before further MOVPE growth of a 2nm U.I.D. InP spacer, 2nm silicon-doped InP, and 10nm U.I.D. InP cap. The dummy gate was removed and replaced by a wider dummy gate, creating 50nm access regions for regrown source-drain layers of 80nm-thick highly doped (N+) InGaAs.

The […]

March 20th, 2018|General News Feed|

Monocrystalline silicon thin film for cost-cutting solar cells with 10-times faster growth rate fabricated


A research team from Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Waseda University have successfully produced high-quality thin film monocrystalline silicon with a reduced crystal defect density down to the silicon wafer level at a growth rate that is more than 10 times higher than before. In principle, this method can improve the raw material yield to nearly 100 percent. Therefore, it can be expected that this technology will make it possible to drastically reduce manufacturing costs while maintaining the power generation efficiency of monocrystalline silicon solar cells, which are used in most high efficient solar cells.

Efficiently converting solar energy to generate electricity is an effective solution to the problem of global warming related to CO2 emissions. By making the monocrystalline Si solar cells that are at the core of solar power generation systems thinner, it is possible to greatly reduce raw material costs, which account for about 40 percent of the cost of current modules. Making them flexible and lighter would increase usage and decrease costs.

In addition, as a method of reducing manufacturing cost, thin-film monocrystalline Si solar cells that use a double porous silicon layer (DPSL) via lift-off are attracting attention. Among the technical challenges related to monocrystalline Si […]

March 19th, 2018|General News Feed|

Semi-polar III-nitride integration for visible light communication

From Semiconductor Today:

Researchers based in Saudi Arabia and USA have used semi-polar indium gallium nitride (InGaN) quantum wells (QWs) to create a laser diode (LD) integrated with a semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) for visible light communication (VLC), smart lighting, and underwater wireless optical communications (UWOC) [Chao Shen et al, Optics Express, vol26, pA219, 2018].

The team from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the USA, and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia, comments: “Since the on-chip integration of various photonic devices offers the advantages of small footprint, low cost and multi-functionality, it is of great interest to develop III-nitride photonic integrated circuits (PICs) at the visible wavelength.”

The epitaxial structure for the device was grown by metal-organic chemical vapor epitaxy on semi-polar (20-2-1) GaN. The active light-emitting region was four pairs of In0.1Ga{0.9N/GaN quantum wells/barriers. A 16nm Al0.18Ga0.82N layer served as an electron-blocking layer (EBL). The separate-confinement heterostructure (SCH) waveguides consisted of 60nm/60nm p-/n-In0.025Ga0.975N. The p- and n-GaN cladding layers were 600nm and 350nm, respectively.

The p- and n-electrodes were palladium/gold (Pd/Au) and titanium/aluminium/nickel/gold (Ti/Al/Ni/Au), respectively. The structure of the separate SOA and laser diode sections […]

March 19th, 2018|General News Feed|

‘Frequency combs’ ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region


Chemical compounds all carry distinctive absorption “fingerprints” within the mid-infrared spectral region of 2 to 12 microns. This offers an opportunity to measure and study chemicals at extremely sensitive levels but researchers lack the tools, like lasers and detectors, needed to operate within the mid-infrared. Recently, there’s been a push to develop new tools to help see and measure these chemical compounds in greater detail.

In a breakthrough, a group of researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed an on-silicon-chip laser source with outputs that consist of precisely defined and equally spaced optical lines within the mid-infrared spectral region. They report their findings in APL Photonics.

These lasers, called frequency combs, “act as ‘rulers’ of light and have numerous applications—from transferring time standards and improving GPS signals to precision spectroscopy,” said Nima Nader, a postdoctoral researcher for NIST.

For spectroscopic applications, this type of coherent light source can pass through a sample cell containing unknown gases. These gases absorb some of the light and leave behind fingerprints on very specific comb lines. Researchers can check these lines against a database of gases to identify the specific chemicals present.

Beyond this, the coherent nature of the laser source “enables long-distance propagation of light so chemical samples […]

March 15th, 2018|General News Feed|

Silicon breakthrough could lead to new high-performance bendable electronics

From Tech Xplore:

A new method of creating bendable silicon chips could help pave the way for a new generation of high-performance flexible electronic devices.

In two new papers, University of Glasgow engineers describe how they scaled up the established processes for making flexible silicon chips to the size required for delivering high-performance bendable systems in the future, and discuss the barriers which will need to be overcome in order to make those systems commonplace.

In the first paper, published in the journal Advanced Electronic Materials, researchers from the University’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) show how they have been able to make for the first time an ultrathin silicon wafer capable of delivering high-performance computing while remaining flexible.

Flexible electronics have many potential applications, including implantable electronics, bendable displays, wearable technology which can provide constant feedback on users’ health. The BEST group has already made significant progress in wearable technology, including a flexible sensor and accompanying smartphone app which can provide feedback on the pH levels of users’ sweat.

Professor Ravinder Dahiya, the head of the BEST group, said: “Silicon-based circuits have advanced in complexity with remarkable speed since their initial development in the late 1950s, making today’s world of high-performance computing possible.

“However, silicon is […]

March 15th, 2018|General News Feed|

GF takes 90nm silicon photonics to 300mm wafers

From New Electronics:
As silicon photonics is being seen as a potential way of supporting the higher data rates needed by future datacentres, Globalfoundries (GF) says it has qualified the first 90nm manufacturing process using 300mm wafers. The foundry has also revealed plans to move to 45nm in order to deliver higher bandwidth and better energy efficiency.
“The explosive need for bandwidth is fuelling demand for a new generation of optical interconnects,” said Mike Cadigan, pictured, a GF senior vice president. “Our silicon photonics technologies enable customers to deliver unprecedented levels of connectivity for transferring massive amounts of data, whether it’s between chips inside a datacentre or across cloud servers separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles. When combined with our advanced ASIC and packaging capabilities, these technologies allow us to deliver highly differentiated solutions to this marketplace.”

GF’s current-generation silicon photonics offering is built on its 90nm RF SOI process, which can provide a bandwidth of 30GHz, in turn enabling data rates of up to 800Gbit/s over distances of up to 120km. This process has now been migrated to a 300mm line at GF’s Fab 10 facility in East Fishkill.

GF’s next-generation silicon photonics process, planned for 2019, will be based […]

March 15th, 2018|General News Feed|

Efficient and high-throughput technique to study the structure of DNA


It may be the most famous structure in biology, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that biophysicist Enzo di Fabrizio and his colleagues took the first direct images of the DNA double helix with an electron microscope.

Now, di Fabrizio and his lab group at KAUST have improved upon their groundbreaking technique, tweaking the protocol to make it simpler and faster.

“It’s an efficient and high-throughput alternative to more conventional techniques,” says Monica Marini, postdoctoral fellow in di Fabrizio’s lab and first author of the new study.

The image that helped Watson and Crick decipher the corkscrew-like structure of DNA 65 years ago was taken using a technique called X-ray crystallography, which involves scattering electromagnetic radiation off atoms in a crystalized form of DNA. For decades, this was the only way to get 3-D renderings of the building blocks of life.

But those pictures were only abstractions, based on interpretations of diffracted X-rays. They weren’t true photographs. And it wasn’t until 2012—when di Fabrizio, back in his native Italy, produced the first direct image of DNA—that researchers got a faithful picture of the double helix.

Di Fabrizio moved to KAUST in 2013, and over the past five years his group has been steadily […]

March 14th, 2018|General News Feed|

Meeting the demand for smaller LED displays

From New Electronics:
The search for a breakthrough display technology that addresses the needs of next generation products could be over.
A growing number of emerging applications, such as Head Up Displays (HUDs), AR/VR headsets and general wearables, are looking at new display technologies to enable the development of next generation products that will meet growing global demand. According to research consultancy Yole Développement, the market could reach as many as 330million units by 2025.

Although augmented and virtual reality are probably being seen consumer technologies, they are increasingly used in industrial and manufacturing applications, providing skilled and semi-skilled workers with access to information that can assist them in a range of tasks. Examples may include showing a worker the correct sequence for fixing and tightening bolts in an engine, or rivets in a larger structure such as a fuselage. When tools are also connected, the process becomes altogether more integrated, delivering quality assurance as each fixing is recorded or highlighting those that haven’t yet been secured.

Head-mounted displays not only add a level of realism to the scene, they can further increase productivity by allowing workers to move around unencumbered by large handheld displays or tablets.

Display technology is evolving in order to […]

March 14th, 2018|General News Feed|

Bendable silicon wafer is just 15µm thick

From New Electronics:
A new method of creating bendable silicon chips could enable high-performance flexible electronic devices, according to research published by a team from the University of Glasgow.
The team, from Glasgow’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) department, says it has made a silicon wafer which is only 15µm thick, yet capable of delivering high-performance computing while remaining flexible.

Professor Ravinder Dahiya, the head of the BEST group, said: “Silicon-based circuits have advanced in complexity with remarkable speed since their initial development in the late 1950s, making today’s world of high-performance computing possible.

“However, silicon is a brittle material which breaks easily under stress, which has made it very difficult to use in bendable systems on anything other than the nano-scale.

“What we’ve been able to do for the first time is adapt existing processes to transfer wafer-scale ultrathin silicon chips onto flexible substrates. The process has been demonstrated with wafers 4in in diameter, but it can be implemented for larger wafers as well. In any case, this scale is sufficient for manufacturing ultra-thin silicon wafers capable of delivering satisfactory computing power.”

Meanwhile, the BEST team says it has also identified a number of research questions which need be answered before flexible electronics […]

March 14th, 2018|General News Feed|

Chemical topology of silica can influence the effectiveness of many chemical processes that use it



Better known as glass, silica is a versatile material used in myriad industrial processes, from catalysis and filtration, to chromatography and nanofabrication. Yet despite its ubiquity in labs and cleanrooms, surprisingly little is known about silica’s surface interactions with water at a molecular level.

“The way water interacts with a surface affects many processes,” said Songi Han, a UC Santa Barbara professor of chemistry and author on a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In many cases, she explained, scientists and engineers intuit the potential interactions between silica and water and design equipment, experiments and processes based on empirical evidence. But a mechanistic understanding of how the chemical topology of silica surfaces alter the structure of water at the surface could lead to a rationale design of these processes.

For many people, glass is glass, and brings to mind the clear, hard, smooth, homogenous-looking material that we use for windows or tableware. However, on a deeper level what we call “glass” is actually a more complex material that can contain different chemical properties with wide-ranging distributions.

“Glass is a material we’re all familiar with, but what many people probably don’t know is that it is what we would call a chemically heterogenous surface,” said graduate […]

March 13th, 2018|General News Feed|

Movable silicon ‘lenses’ enable neutrons to see new range of details inside objects


You can’t see well without lenses that can focus, whether those lenses are in your eye or the microscope you peer through. An innovative new way to focus beams of neutrons might allow scientists to probe the interiors of opaque objects at a size range they were blind to previously, allowing them to explore the innards of objects from meteorites to cutting-edge manufactured materials without damaging them.

The method, published today in Physical Review Letters, could convert what historically has been a support tool for neutron science into a full-fledged scanning technique that could reveal details ranging in size from 1 nanometer up to 10 micrometers within larger objects. The approach provides this tool, known as neutron interferometry, with what are essentially its first movable “lenses” capable of zooming in and out on details in this size range—a range that has been difficult to probe, even with other neutron scanning methods.

More precisely, these “lenses” are silicon wafers acting as diffraction gratings, which take advantage of neutrons’ wavelike properties. The gratings split and redirect a neutron beam so that the waves bounce off an object’s edges and then collide with one another, creating a visible moiré interference pattern representative of the object that […]

March 13th, 2018|General News Feed|

Room-temperature electrically pumped indium gallium nitride microdisk laser

From Semiconductor Today:

Researchers in China have successfully fabricated an indium gallium nitride (InGaN) microdisk laser on silicon that operated at room temperature under electrical pumping [Meixin Feng et al, Optics Express, vol26, p5043, 2018]. “This is the first observation of electrically pumped lasing in InGaN-based microdisk lasers grown on Si at room temperature,” the team from Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics, University of Science and Technology of China, and Changchun Institute of Optics Fine Mechanics and Physics, writes.

Laser devices are needed on silicon to power photonics handling through silicon waveguides for high-speed data transmission and processing combined with CMOS electronics. Generally, reported microdisk lasers on silicon have been optically pumped, reducing their usefulness.

Microdisk lasers use whispering gallery modes of light reflecting/echoing around a circular structure to create a resonant cavity for laser excitation that can efficiently couple to on-chip waveguides.

The researchers used a sandwich structure on silicon (Figure 1), rather than the more usual stem-and-cap mushroom format normally employed for optically pumped microdisk lasers. The team adopted the sandwich format to give more robustness and to reduce the electrical and thermal resistance of the n-side of the device.

Since aluminium gallium nitride (AlGaN) has a lower refractive index than […]

March 13th, 2018|General News Feed|

A New Kind of Flexible Device

From EE Journal:

One thing we know for sure about semiconductor chips is that they’re really, really, really expensive to manufacture. We’re talking space-program levels of money. It costs many billions of dollars to build a new semiconductor fab, not to mention the acre-feet of water, chemicals, materials, and manpower needed to keep it running.

That’s one of the funny paradoxes of this business: it’s galactically expensive to build a chip-making plant, but the chips themselves are ridiculously cheap. This, as they teach us in Economics 101, is the power of high-volume manufacturing and amortization. If Intel, Xilinx, or Samsung made only one chip per year, we’d pay $1 billion for it. But since they produce millions of chips, we pay only a few bucks.

The volume-pricing curve also means that chips need to be big box-office hits or they won’t get the green light for production. There are no boutique semiconductor fabs hand-crafting artisanal devices for the carriage trade using Old World techniques. It’s not economically viable to make just a hundred copies of a new chip, or even a thousand or ten thousand. That’s why we have programmable devices like FPGAs and CPLDs: to fill that hole between humongous mass-production […]

March 8th, 2018|General News Feed|

Novel semiconductor-superconductor structure features versatile gallium nitride

From Tech Xplore:

Silicon has been the semiconductor material of choice for electronics pretty much since the transistor effect was first observed and identified nearly 80 years ago. There’s a valley in California named for it, after all.

But a relatively new family of semiconductors – group III-nitrides, including gallium nitride (GaN), indium nitride and aluminum nitride – offers greater versatility than silicon with capabilities for ultrafast wireless communications, high-voltage switches and high intensity lighting and photonics.

A team led by Debdeep Jena, professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), and David Meyer, head of the Wide Bandgap Materials and Devices section at the Naval Research Laboratory, has successfully devised a semiconductor-superconductor crystal structure featuring GaN grown directly onto a crystal of niobium nitride (NbN), a proven superconductor material used in quantum communications, astronomy and a host of other applications.

The group’s paper, “GaN/NbN Epitaxial Semiconductor/Superconductor Heterostructures,” is being published online March 8 in Nature. Former postdoctoral researcher Rusen Yan and current postdoc Guru Khalsa are co-lead authors.

Other key contributors were Grace Xing, the Richard Lundquist Sesquicentennial Professor in ECE and MSE, and David Muller, the Samuel B. Eckert Professor of Engineering in the Department of Applied and Engineering Physics.

The method for combining the […]

March 8th, 2018|General News Feed|

The James Webb Space Telescope

From Reporter Magazine:

In about a year from now, thousands of miles out in space, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will unfurl its mirrors and begin delivering data about the very birth of the universe. In our corner of the planet, RIT professors and students will be interpreting that information to resolve long-held questions about how it all began.

Astrophysics Professor Jeyhan Kartaltepe is part of CEERS (Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey), a group of scientists who will be some of the first to receive and analyze JWST data. Director Don Figer and his team at the Center for Detectors (CfD), on the other hand, are working on developing infrared detector technology that will support the next generation of telescopes.

Unlocking the Galaxies of the Past

In the first week of February, Kartaltepe met with her fellow CEERS scientists in Houston to plan for the influx of data that is expected post-launch.

“We need to start considering what sort of simulations we can run,” Kartaltepe said, while en route to her next conference in Hawaii. “We’ve been generating a lot of simulated data so we can test all of our tools, that way we’re ready to go when the real data gets here.”

The JWST has been decades […]

March 7th, 2018|General News Feed|

Reducing the loss of light at the surface of semiconductor nanostructures


A technique for reducing the loss of light at the surface of semiconductor nanostructures has been demonstrated by scientists at KAUST. Some materials can efficiently convert the electrons in an electrical current into light. These so-called semiconductors are used to create light-emitting diodes or LEDs: small, light, energy-efficient, long-lasting devices that are increasingly prevalent in both lighting and display applications.

The color, or wavelength, of the emitted light can be determined by choosing the appropriate material. Gallium arsenide, for example, emits predominantly infrared light. For shorter wavelengths that move into the blue or ultraviolet region of the spectrum, scientists have turned to gallium nitride. Then, to tune down the emission wavelength, aluminum can be added, which alters the spacing between the atoms and increases the energy bandgap.

However, numerous factors prevent all the radiation created in the semiconductor escaping the device to act as an efficient light source. Firstly, most semiconducting materials have a high refractive index, which makes semiconductor-air interfaces highly reflected—at some angles all light bounces backwards in a process known as total internal reflectivity. A second limitation is that imperfections at the surface act as traps that reabsorb the light before it can escape.

Postdoc Haiding Sun and his KAUST colleagues, including […]

March 7th, 2018|General News Feed|

Vanadium dioxide enables III-nitride phase-transition field-effect transistor

From Semiconductor Today:

Cornell University in the USA has demonstrated a gallium nitride (GaN) phase-transition field-effect transistor (FET) based on loading a metal-oxide-semiconductor high-electron-mobility transistor (MOS-HEMT) with a vanadium dioxide (VO2) resistor [Amit Verma et al, IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, vol65, p945, 2018]. The combination enabled very low leakage along with ‘sub-thermionic’ subthreshold steep-switching behavior.

The researchers comment: “This first demonstration of ultralow-leakage steep switching in GaN phase-FETs using integration-friendly ALD VO2 opens the door to introducing new functionalities in nitride low-power digital devices, microwave circuits, photonic devices, and power electronics in the GaN-on-silicon platform.”

Heating the VO2 resistor above ~67°C gave an insulator to metal transition. An electrically driven transition to the metallic phase occurred above a critical field of ~27kV/cm at 60°C. The current density threshold was ~20μA/μm.

The VO2 was grown by atomic layer deposition (ALD) using tetrakis-ethylmethylamino-vanadium (TEMAV) and ozone precursors on sapphire. The layer was 50nm thick with amorphous structure. Annealing crystallized the VO2. The contacts on the 100μm-wide VO2 resistors were titanium/gold.

The team comments: “Though this transition can be achieved at room temperature, an elevated temperature of 60°C was used to keep the transition voltage lower.”

The resistor was connected to an aluminium gallium nitride barrier (AlGaN) MOS-HEMT on silicon (Figure […]

March 7th, 2018|General News Feed|

Mining hardware helps scientists gain insight into silicon nanoparticles


Researchers have developed a three-dimensional dynamic model of an interaction between light and nanoparticles. They used a supercomputer using graphics accelerators for calculations. The results show that silicon particles exposed to short, intense laser pulses lose their symmetry temporarily. Their optical properties become strongly heterogeneous. Such a change in properties depends on particle size. Therefore, it can be used for light control in ultrafast information processing nanoscale devices. The study is published in Advanced Optical Materials.

Improvement of computing devices today requires further acceleration of information processing. Nanophotonics is one of the disciplines that can solve this problem by means of optical devices. Although optical signals can be transmitted and processed much faster than electronic ones, it is first necessary to learn how to control light on a small scale. For this purpose, researchers use metal particles, which localize light efficiently, yet weaken the signal, eventually causing significant losses. However, dielectric and semiconducting materials such as silicon can be used instead of metal.

Silicon nanoparticles are now actively studied by researchers all around the world, including ITMO University. The long-term goal of such studies is to create an ultrafast compact modulator for optical signals. They can serve as a basis for computers of the […]

March 6th, 2018|General News Feed|

U.S. protectionist measures to have limited impact on S. Korean chip industry

From Yonhap News:

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) — The latest protectionist trade policies being pursued by U.S. President Donald Trump should not pose immediate problems for South Korean chipmakers, industry watchers here said Tuesday, although companies need to be prepared for unexpected developments.

“As (memory chips) are intermediary goods, it is unlikely that (the chip industry) will face heavy tariffs as such a move can impact the cost of final products,” said Mun Byung-ki, a researcher at the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

The rising demand for big data, cloud computing and Internet of Things solutions around the globe will also make chips play more important roles in the global IT industry going forward. This can make it harder for the U.S. to erect new trade barriers for semiconductors.

Experts, in addition, said the size of the U.S. market for South Korean semiconductors has been declining over the past years.

In 2000, the U.S. accounted for 30.4 percent of South Korea’s exports of chips, while the figure plunged to 3.4 percent in 2017, the latest data by KITA showed.

Instead, exports to China shot up and have since become the biggest buyer of South Korean chips by taking up 40.2 percent of all shipments last […]

March 6th, 2018|General News Feed|

SiC Foundry at the Scale of Silicon

From Electronics 360:

X-FAB has established a 6-inch silicon carbide foundry line fully integrated within their 30,000 wafer-per-month silicon wafer fab located in Lubbock, Texas. With the support of the PowerAmerica Institute, X-FAB’s goal is to accelerate the commercialization of SiC power devices by leveraging the economies of scale, automotive quality system and equipment set that have been established in of its silicon wafer fabrication line.

With its origins in the 1970s memory chip production era of Texas Instruments, X-FAB acquired the fab from TI in 1999 and converted it into an analog/mixed-signal facility, producing largely automotive-use ICs. That business will continue, but as new chip designs are targeted at 200-millimeter (8-inch) fabs, the Lubbock fab is ensuring its long-term survival by offering a 150-millimeter SiC power foundry capability.

Companies making power modules for emerging markets such as solar energy or electric vehicles (EVs) are beginning to adopt SiC, attracted by reduced switching losses, higher power density and better heat dissipation. Above 650 volts, silicon-based insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) now predominate, but Andy Wilson, manager of X-FAB Texas’s Silicon Carbide business unit, argues that those power ICs have “significant switching losses that limit their operational frequency.” An inverter converts power more efficiently […]

March 6th, 2018|General News Feed|

92 Fabs Closed Since 2009, says IC Isights

From Electronics Weekly:

The spree of merger and acquisition activity and the migration to producing IC devices using sub-20nm process technology has also led suppliers to eliminate inefficient wafer fabs.

From 2009-2017, semiconductor manufacturers around the world have closed or repurposed 92 wafer fabs, says IC Insights.

Figure 1 shows that since 2009, 41% of fab closures have been 150mm fabs and 26% have been 200mm wafer fabs. 300mm wafer fabs have accounted for only 10% of total fab closures since 2009. Qimonda was the first company to close a 300mm wafer fab after it went out of business in early 2009.

More recently, ProMOS closed two 300mm memory fabs in 2013 and Renesas sold its 300mm logic fab to Sony in 2014. Sony repurposed that fab to make image sensors. In 2017, Samsung closed its 300mm Line 11 memory fab in Yongin, South Korea, also repurposing it to manufacture image sensors.

Semiconductor suppliers in Japan have closed a total of 34 wafer fabs since 2009, more than any other country/region. In the 2009-2017 timeframe, 30 fabs were closed in North America and 17 shuttered in Europe, and only 11 wafer fabs were closed throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Figure 2).



Worldwide fab closures surged in […]

March 5th, 2018|General News Feed|

Silicon photonics: beyond the hype cycle

From Fibre Systems:

For the past several decades, silicon photonics has promised to disrupt the optical components industry by providing a common platform on which diverse optical functions can be integrated in a way that scales easily to high volumes, while keeping manufacturing costs low. That platform is complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) – the bedrock process of the semiconductor manufacturing industry – which also opens up the possibility of integrating electronics and optics on the same substrate. It’s no wonder the industry speaks of the potential for disruption.

But innovation can be a bumpy road, as highlighted by Mellanox’s recent decision to discontinue development of its 1550nm silicon photonics technology and products. Emerging technologies must survive the ‘hype cycle’ – moving through a phase of overzealous industry expectations and the subsequent ‘chasm of doom’ as flaws and failures in processes and products lead to disappointment, before the technology (hopefully) matures. In Mellanox’s case, the story has ended prematurely.

For silicon photonics, the hype cycle probably reached its peak in 2012, when Cisco splashed $270 million on technology start-up Lightwire. ‘Forecasting technological disruptions is probably just as hard as predicting earthquakes,’ as Vladimir Kozlov, founder and principal analyst with market research firm LightCounting, […]

March 5th, 2018|General News Feed|

GigaLane’s dominance in semiconductor and RF industries shows technological excellence

From South China Morning Post:
Listed on the Korean Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, GigaLane is a US$100 million South Korean company running three businesses – semiconductor equipment manufacturing, semiconductor equipment trading and high-frequency radio frequency (RF) connectivity products manufacturing.
GigaLane has a 60 per cent share in the global light-emitting-diode (LED) etcher market, making it the world’s No 1, and is the only company in South Korea able to manufacture RF cables and connectors exceeding 6GHz, which will be used as the main frequency bandwidth in the fifth-generation wireless systems (5G) telecommunications. It is ideally positioned to ride the current wave of huge demand for semiconductors and LEDs, and the 5G telecommunication infrastructure upgrade set to start this year.
GigaLane’s customers include South Korea’s premier companies, such as Samsung Electronics, and more than 200 foreign companies including GLOBALFOUNDRIES, NXP Semiconductors, Boeing and Nokia.
As a global company, GigaLane secures more than two-thirds of its sales from its exports. To expand on this success, GigaLane focuses heavily on research and development (R&D), allocating 20 per cent of its total revenues evenly between capital expenditures and R&D. The result has led to close to 300 patents and more than 200 world-leading products under development.
GigaLane was […]

March 2nd, 2018|General News Feed|

China to strictly control new solar capacity expansion, boost tech…

From Reuters:
BEIJING (Reuters) – China will strictly control the expansion of solar power production capacity and encourage more innovation, the industry ministry said in new guidelines Thursday, to improve technology and cut production costs in its fast-growing solar sector.

The guideline, issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), follows the United States placing steep tariffs on solar panel imports in late January.
The guidelines set a minimum research and development (R&D) investment amount for solar companies of 10 million yuan ($1.58 million) each year, and set minimum performance standards such as solar cell efficiency and the attenuation rate of the solar products.
Over the past three years, China has been promoting a “Top Runner Program” to encourage solar companies to produce high-efficiency products by granting subsidies and offering government contracts.
China, the world’s biggest solar products maker, produced a total of 87 gigawatts (GW) of silicon wafers and 68 GW of solar cells last year. It currently has a total of 130.3 GW of installed solar capacity.
The ministry’s new guidelines will take effect from Thursday.
Read more: China to strictly control new solar capacity expansion, boost tech… reposted by Silicon Valley Microelectronics.

March 2nd, 2018|General News Feed|

Cadence, imec tape out 64bit MCU test chip at 3nm

From New Electronics:
Nanotechnology research centre imec has taped out what it says is the industry’s first 3nm test chip. The project, in association with Cadence, was completed using design rules focused at EUV and 193nm immersion lithography, along with Cadence’s Innovus and Genus software suites.
The test chip – a 64bit CPU (shown below) – was created using a custom 3nm standard cell library and a TRIM metal flow, in which the routing pitch was reduced to 21nm. Together, Cadence and imec have enabled the 3nm implementation flow to be fully validated in preparation for next-generation design innovation.

“As process dimensions reduce to the 3nm node,” said An Steegen, pictured, executive vice president for semiconductor technology and systems at imec, “interconnect variation becomes much more significant. Our work on the test chip has enabled interconnect variation to be measured and improved and the 3nm manufacturing process to be validated.”

Cadence’s Innovus System is a massively parallel physical implementation system that enables engineers to deliver designs with optimal power, performance and area targets to market quickly. Genus is a high-capacity RTL synthesis and physical synthesis engine that addresses the latest FinFET process node requirements.

“Imec’s state-of-the-art infrastructure enables pre-production innovations ahead of industry demands, […]

March 1st, 2018|General News Feed|

FD-SOI Adoption Expands

From Semiconductor Engineering:

Fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) is gaining ground across a number of new markets, ranging from IoT to automotive to machine learning, and diverging sharply from its original position as a less costly alternative to finFET-based designs.

For years, FD-SOI has been viewed as an either/or solution targeted at the same markets as bulk CMOS. Among the differences:

FD-SOI transistors are planar, so they are simpler and less expensive to design and manufacture than 3D  finFETs. Manufacturing requires only minimal double patterning at 22nm and beyond, whereas 10/7nm finFETs require multiple patterning on multiple layers, as well as complex power management schemes to deal with dynamic power density and leakage current, which is a growing problem at 10/7nm and beyond.
FD-SOI supports body biasing, which can be utilized to significantly reduce energy consumption.
The technology has a built-in insulator layer to control leakage current and minimize capacitance and various types of noise.

FD-SOI also does not require channel doping, which is where the term “fully depleted” comes from. It is scalable at least to 10nm, according to Leti. And it can be sourced at both GlobalFoundries and Samsung, with more capacity under development in China at GlobalFoundries’ new fab in Chengdu and possibly more on the way from Shanghai […]

March 1st, 2018|General News Feed|