Nanotechnology research and development center imec, today announced the celebration of its 30th anniversary. Founded in 1984 as a non-profit organization, imec has grown to be a multi-disciplinary expertise center in the fields of semiconductor chips and systems, electronics for life sciences, body area networks, energy, photovoltaics, sustainable wireless communication, image sensors and vision systems, and flexible electronics and displays. Through innovations in nanoelectronics, imec has collaborated with numerous partners from universities, research institutes and top companies, creating solutions and developing emerging technology for a sustainable environment.
In the domain of semiconductor technologies, imec has enabled notable advancements in global semiconductor chip manufacturing in the three decades since its founding. At the forefront in advancing immersion lithography, EUV, double patterning imec has driven lithography as a key solution to overcome the challenges in scaling down features in silicon chips. In 2013, imec and ASML broadened their partnership with the launch of a Patterning Center. When complete, this Center will offer the global semiconductor ecosystem the most advanced patterning knowledge for sub-10nm technologies, crucial to addressing future scaling and infrastructure challenges. This Center will be extended through partnerships with other suppliers into a “Suppliers Hub,” to collaborate on the development of next generation process technology solutions.
Launched in 2003, imec’s research platform addressed the needs of the semiconductor value chain during the crucial transition from 200mm to 300mm silicon wafers as a manufacturing standard. The platform allows companies to collaborate on advanced process module and device research, targeting technology generations two to three nodes ahead of state-of-the-art IC production. Today, this initiative has evolved to a global collaboration platform with global industry leaders such as Intel, Samsung, TSMC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Micron, SK Hynix, Toshiba, SanDisk, Panasonic, Sony, Qualcomm, Altera, Fujitsu, nVidia, Xilinx, and others, driving semiconductor industry innovations.
Imec’s main achievements in semiconductor process technology research include:
1) Development of sub-22nm process technologies: From silicides to copper (Cu), to the introduction of low-k and high-k/metal gates, imec’s R&D has explored techniques to overcome interconnect metallization issues. In 2013, imec demonstrated the world’s first 3D compound semiconductor FinFET. Integrating III-V and silicon materials on the same 300mm silicon wafer through a unique silicon fin replacement process, imec demonstrated progress toward continued CMOS scaling at 7nm and below, enabling future hybrid CMOS-RF and CMOS-optoelectronics.
2) Contributions to manufacturability and circuit performance of advanced devices: Imec’s outstanding cleaning expertise has resulted in wafer cleaning solutions with high particle removal efficiency and minimal chemical use. The Rotagoni cleaning method, developed in 2001, solved the challenges faced by single-wafer wet cleaning. Also, imec pioneered research on 3D integrated circuits as a potential road to build more complex, more powerful and more cost-effective electronic systems, combining different types of functionalities on an ever smaller footprint. In 2008, imec demonstrated, for the first time ever, 3D integrated circuits.
Imec’s innovation in nanoelectronics has been a driver for developments in many other domains including healthcare, energy, photovoltaics, communications, and mobility, where imec has applied its semiconductor technology expertise. In 2013, imec’s life science research gained momentum by forging new R&D collaborations with Johns Hopkins University, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Pacific Biosciences, Panasonic, JSR, and others. Such collaborations will lead to breakthroughs in healthcare with the development of the next generation of “lab-on-chip” concepts, powerful supercomputers for life sciences research, and sensor array tools to advance neuroscience research.
“It’s our ambition to further position imec as a unique innovation hub for Europe and the world, where disruptive technology ideas are generated and come to fruition,” stated Luc Van den hove, president and chief executive officer at imec. “We welcome scientists, researchers and engineers from companies of various fields to collaborate with us as they advance and tune their innovations. Imec has proven to be the birthplace of new discoveries, and we confidently look forward to the next 30 years of innovation that will be the backbone of the solutions that will help make the world a better, more sustainable place.”