Collaboration Required to Reduce Development Costs for IC Materials
Continued Scaling Won’t Work Without New Approaches
Half Moon Bay, California, January 12, 2006 -- New semiconductor materials will be the key to continued scaling of devices in line with Moore’s Law, but industry-wide collaboration will be essential to reduce development costs, according to speakers at the SEMI Strategic Materials Conference (SMC) here today.
“New materials will continue to fuel innovation, I don’t think there is any doubt about that,” said keynote speaker Thomas N. Theis, director of physical sciences for IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. “But this kind of innovation can be very expensive and that gets us to collaboration and partnerships.”
Technical issues such as power dissipation and device variability were the roadblocks to improving performance through further scaling, according to Theis. “We are going to continue to shrink the devices, but we are going to have to do it with new materials and new device structures otherwise the shrink will not work,” he said.
Theis also raised the question of a possible replacement for silicon. While he believes silicon transistors will be around for another 10 years at least, he noted that there are efforts by labs, universities and companies to search for a new type of field effect transistor. “The ultimate FET may not contain silicon,” he said.
Jerry Ermentrout, general manager of the Electronics Division of Air Products, said that despite the high rate of change in the semiconductor industry materials have typically had relatively long life times. “That clearly is changing,” he said. Instead of spanning six or more technology nodes, materials are now applicable across only two or three nodes.
Ermentrout spoke out in favor of pre-competitive collaboration in the materials industry to close the R&D funding gap identified in a recent SEMI white paper. Many companies were doing redundant work in order to create a competitive advantage. “We have to do a better job of spending the R&D dollars that we are spending,” he said. “An increasing amount of collaboration could help us close the current funding gap.”
However, he warned that a major obstacle in getting companies to work together was intellectual property (IP). “What gets in the way too often is the IP and how to use it”, he said.
Speakers at SMC also highlighted a trend for semiconductor companies to hire more materials scientists and physical chemists and fewer electrical engineers, signaling the importance of materials in future technology developments.
While most of the industry collaborations thus far have been in the wafer processing sector, some speakers called for more co-operation in assembly and test as well. David Bennett, director of strategic equipment technologies for Advance Micro Devices, noted that the cost of testing and packaging devices was approaching the cost of the wafer processing, providing an incentive for technology partnerships in the back-end.
SEMI is a global industry association serving companies that provide equipment, materials and services used to manufacture semiconductors, displays, nano-scaled structures, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and related technologies. SEMI maintains offices in Austin, Beijing, Brussels, Hsinchu, Moscow, San Jose (Calif.), Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.semi.org.