SMIC claims breakthrough in backside-illuminated image sensors

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., or SMIC, (NYSE: SMI; SEHK: 981), is claiming a breakthrough in its development of backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS image sensor (CIS) technology, with the first test chip demonstrating good image quality even in low-light conditions. The complete BSI process technology, which has been independently developed by SMIC, will serve the market for high-end mobile phone cameras, and is targeted to enter risk production with partnering customers in 2013.

The BSI process development allows SMIC to broaden its CIS foundry service offerings to customers with five-megapixel and higher resolution phone cameras and high-performance video camera products. BSI sensors are more light-sensitive than frontside-illuminated CMOS sensors, allowing today’s top smartphones to take brighter, clearer pictures at night or indoors. While driving its BSI technology toward commercial production, the company is soon to begin early development of next-generation CIS technology based on 3D integrated circuits.

"We are proud to be the first Chinese foundry to successfully develop BSI CMOS image sensors," said SMIC CEO Dr. TY Chiu. "CMOS image sensors are among the key value-added technologies that SMIC offers for customers in the mobile device and imaging markets."

"With this achievement as a stepping stone, our development team will drive the BSI sensor technology to timely commercialization," added Dr. Shiuh-Wuu Lee, SMIC’s Senior Vice President of Technology Development.

Since the introduction of its frontside-illuminated CIS process in 2005, SMIC says it has become a major foundry for CIS wafers, primarily for mobile phone and consumer electronics applications. In order to provide turnkey CIS fabrication service, SMIC and Toppan Printing of Japan operate a joint venture, Toppan SMIC Electronics (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., (TSES), which fabricates on-chip color filters and micro lenses at SMIC’s Shanghai site.

Earlier this year, rival foundry United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) and STMicroelectronics said they are collaborating on 65nm CMOS image sensor (CIS) technology using backside illumination (BSI), following completion of a frontside illumination (FSI) process at UMC’s 300mm Fab 12i in Singapore.

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