Tag Archives: integration

PCM + ReRAM = OUM as XPoint

The good people at TECHINSIGHTS have reverse-engineered an Intel “Optane” SSD to cross-section the XPoint cells within (http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1331865&), so we have confirmation that the devices use chalcogenide glasses for both the switching layer and the selector diode. That the latter is labeled “OTS” (for Ovonic Threshold Switch) explains the confusion over the last year as to whether this device is a Phase-Change Memory (PCM) or Resistive Random Access Memory (ReRAM)…it seems to be the special variant of ReRAM using PCM material that has been branded Ovonic Unified Memory or “OUM” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260107322_Programming_Speed_in_Ovonic_Unified_Memory).

As a reminder, cross-bar ReRAM devices function by voltage-driven pulses creating resistance changes in some material. The cross-bars allow for reading and writing all the bits in a word-string in a manner similar to Flash arrays.

In complete contrast, Phase Change Memory (PCM) cells—as per the name—rely upon the change between crystalline and amorphous material phases to alter resistance. The standard way to change phases is with thermal energy from an integrated set of heater elements. The standard PCM architecture also requires one transistor for each memory cell in a manner similar to DRAM arrays.

Then we have the OUM variant of PCM as previously branded by Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) and affiliated shell-campanies founded by tap-dancer-extraordinaire Stanford Ovshinsky (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_R._Ovshinsky). So-called “Ovonic” PCM cells see phase-changes driven by voltage pulses without separate heater elements, such that from a circuit architecture perspective they are cross-bar ReRAMs.

Ovshinsky et al. successfully sold this technology to industry many times. In 2000, it was licensed to STMicroelectronics. Also in 2000, it was used to launch Ovonyx with Intel investment (http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1176621), at which time Intel said the technology would take a long time to commercialize. In 2005 Intel re-invested (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20051019005145/en/Ovonyx-Receives-Additional-Investment-Intel-Capital). Finally in 2009, Intel and Numonyx showed a functional 64Mb XPoint test chip at IEDM (http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1176621).

In 2007, Ovonxyx licensed it to Hynix (http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1167173), and Qimonda (https://www.design-reuse.com/news/15022/ovonyx-qimonda-sign-technology-licensing-agreement-phase-change-memory.html), and others. All of those license obligations were absorbed by Micron when acquiring Ovonyx (https://seekingalpha.com/article/3774746-micron-tainted-love). ECD is still in bankruptcy (http://www.kccllc.net/ecd/document/list/3153).

So, years of R&D and JVs are behind the XPoint Optane(TM) SSDs. They are cross-bar architecture ReRAM arrays of PCM materials, and had the term not been ruined by 17-years of over-promising and under-delivering they would likely have been called OUM chips. Many others tried and failed, but Intel/Micron finally figured out how to make commercial gigabit-scale cross-bar NVMs using OUM arrays. Now they just have to yield the profits…


Moore’s Law Smells Funny

…maybe we need “Integrated Cleverness Law”

“Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.” – Frank Zappa 1973
from Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen’s Church)

Marketing is about managing expectations. IC marketing must position next-generation chips as adding significant new/improved functionalities, and for over 50 years the IC fab industry has leaned on the conceptual crutch of “so-called Moore’s Law” (as Gordon Moore always refers to it) to do so. For 40 years the raw device count was a good proxy for a better IC, but since the end of Dennard Scaling the raw transistor count on a chip is no longer the primary determinant of value.

Intel’s has recently released official positions on Moore’s Law, and the main position is certainly correct:  “Advances in Semi Manufacturing Continue to Make Products Better and More Affordable,” as per the sub-headline of the blog post by Stacy Smith, executive vice president leading manufacturing, operations, and sales for Intel. Smith adds that “We have seen that it won’t end from lack of benefits, and that progress won’t be choked off by economics.” This is what has been meant by “Moore’s Law” all along.

When I interviewed Gordon Moore about all of this 20 years ago (“The Return of Cleverness” Solid State Technology, July 1997, 359), he wisely reminded us that before the industry reaches the limits of physical scaling we will be working with billions of transistors in a square centimeter of silicon. There are no ends to the possibilities of cleverly combining billions of transistors with sensors and communications technologies to add more value to our world. Intel’s recent spend of US$15B to acquire MobileEye is based on a plan to cost-effective integrate novel functionalities, not to merely make the most dense IC.

EETimes reports that at the International Symposium on Physical Design (ISPD 2017) Intel described more than a dozen technologies it is developing with universities and the SRC to transcend the limitations of CMOS. Ian Young, a senior fellow with Intel’s Technology Manufacturing Group and director of exploratory integrated circuits in components research, recently became the editor-in-chief of a new technical journal called the IEEE Journal of Exploratory Solid-State Computational Devices and Circuits, which explores these new CMOS-fab compatible processes.

Meanwhile, Intel’s Mark Bohr does an admirable job of advocating for reason when discussing the size of minimally scaled ICs. Bohr is completely correct in touting Intel’s hard-won lead in making devices smaller, and the company’s fab prowess remains unparalleled.

As I posted here three years ago in my “Moore’s Law Is Dead” blog series, our industry would be better served by retiring the now-obsolete simplification that more = better. As Moore himself says, cleverness in design and manufacturing will always allow us to make more valuable ICs. Maybe it is time to retire “Moore’s Law” and begin leveraging a term like “Integrated Cleverness Law” when telling the world that the next generation of ICs will be better.


EUVL Masks may need to be Tool-Specific

Extreme Ultra-Violet Lithography (EUVL) keeps hurting my brain. Just when I can understand how it could be used in profitable commercial high-volume manufacturing (HVM) I hear something that seriously strains my brain. First it was the mirrors and mask in vacuum, then it was the resist and pellicle, then it was the source power and availability, and in each case scientists and engineers did amazing work and showed a way to HVM. Now we hear that EUVL might require fabs to park work-in-progress (WIP) lots of wafers behind a single critical tool with an idealistic 80% availability on a good day, and lots of downtime bad days. Horrors!

For “5nm-node” designs the maximum allowable edge placement-error (EPE) in patterning overlay is only 2nm. While the physics of ~13.5nm wavelength EUVL means that aberration in the reflecting mirrors appears as up to 3nm variation in the fidelity of projected patterns. This variation can be measured and compensated for at the physical mask level, but then each mask would only be good for one specific exposure tool. John Sturtevant—SPIE Fellow, and director of RET product development in the Design to Silicon Division at Mentor Graphics—briefly discussed this on February 26th during Nikon LithoVision held just before SPIE Advanced Lithography.

Sturtevant explained that the Zernike coefficients for EUV are inherently almost 1 order-of-magnitude higher than for DUV at 193nm wavelength, as detailed in the SemiMD article “Edge Placement Error Control in Multi-Patterning.” How the inherent physical sources of aberration must be tightened to avoid image distortion and contrast loss as they scale with wavelength was discussed by by Fenger et al. in 2013 in the article “Extreme ultraviolet lithography resist-based aberration metrology” (doi:10.1117/1.JMM.12.4.043001).


The Last Technology Roadmap

After many delays, the last ever International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) has been published. Now that there are just a few companies remaining in the world developing new fab technologies in each of the CMOS logic and memory spaces, each leading-edge company has a secret internal roadmap and little motivation to compare directions within fiercely competitive  commercial markets. Solid State Technology Chief Editor Pete Singer covered these developments in his blog post early last year.

Rachael Courtland at IEEE Spectrum provides a great overview of the topic and interviews many of the key contributors to this last global effort. The article provides a nice graph to show how the previously predicted (in the just-prior ITRS 2013 edition) continued physical gate length reduction of CMOS transistors is now expected to stop in 2020. Henceforth, 3D stacking of transistors—perhaps built with arrays of Gate-All-Around NanoWires (GAA-NW)—will be the only way to get more density in circuitry but it will come with proportionally increasing cost.

As Gary Patton, CTO and SVP of Worldwide R&D for GlobalFoundries, mentioned during the 2016 Imec Technology Forum in Brussells, “We will continue to provide value to our customers to be able to create new products. We’re going to innovate to add value other than simple scaling.”

The 17 International Technology Working Groups (ITWGs) were replaced in 2015 by 7 Focus Teams in the last ITRS:  System Integration, Heterogeneous Integration, Heterogeneous Components, Outside System Connectivity, More Moore, Beyond CMOS and Factory Integration. The final reports from each Focus Team are available for free download from Dropbox.

The IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative, Standards Association, and the Computer Society announced a new International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS) on 4th of May this year. Paolo Gargini is leading this work that began with the partnership between the IEEE RC initiative and the ITRS, with aspiration to build “a comprehensive end-to-end view of the computing ecosystem, including devices, components, systems, architecture, and software.”

In parallel to the IRDS efforts, the Heterogeneous Integration Roadmap activities will continue as sponsored by IEEE Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technology Society (CPMT), SEMI  and the IEEE Electron Devices Society (EDS). Bill Bottoms is leading this collaboration with other IEEE Technical Societies that share interest in the Heterogeneous Technology Roadmap as well as to organizations outside IEEE that share this common vision for the roadmap.


Eloquent Executives Ecosystem Expositions


With dimensional scaling reaching economic limits, each company in the IC fab industry must rely upon trusted connections with customers and suppliers to know which way to go, and the only way to gain trusted connections is through attending live events. Fortunately, whether you are an executive, and engineer, or an investor, there is at least one must-attend event happening these days to keep you informed.

We should always start with SEMI (sponsor of SemiMD, personal friends for many years) who has always represented the gold standard for trade-shows, executive events, and manufacturing symposia around the world. I attended my first SEMICON/West in 1988, and have since attended excellent SEMICONs in Europe, Japan, Korea, China, and Singapore. This year’s SEMICON gathering in San Francisco will feature a nearly 50% increase in the number of technical sessions.

SEMI ran another excellent Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Conference (ASMC) in Albany this month, featuring keynotes by visionaries such as “Nanoscale III-V CMOS” by MIT Professor Jesus A. del Alamo. The panel discussion “Moore’s Law Wall vs. Moore’s Wallet, and where do we grow from here,” was moderated by industry veteran Paul Werbaneth, now with Intevac. It is clear that we will reach economic limits of scaling well before the physical limits.

Materials technology and supply-chain solutions to extend economic limits were discussed by Intel’s VP of Technology and Manufacturing Tim Hendry in a keynote at the Critical Materials Conference (CMC) held this year in Oregon in early May, as produced by Techcet CA (I am also an analyst with Techcet and co-chair of this event, while Solid State Technology was a media sponsor). David Thompson, Senior Director, Center of Excellence in Chemistry, Applied Materials showed that despite the inherent “Agony in New Material Introductions – minimizing and correlating variabilities” is possible with improved collaboration throughout the supply-chain.

The Imec Technology Forum in Brussells this month (Solid State Technology was a media sponsor) could best be described with Lake Wobegone hyperbole that all the women were strong, the men were good-looking, and everyone was above average. The big news is imec acquiring iMinds for greater synergies when integrating the latter’s algorithms with imec-ecosystem hardware for application-specific solutions. Gary Patton, now CTO and SVP of Global R&D for GLOBALFOUNDRIES, reminded everyone at ITF of the inherent speed constraints of the copper wires and low-k dielectrics needed to connect IC transistors, “As I’ve often said, It’s like you have a Ferrari but you’re towing a boat if you don’t address the interconnect delay issues.” Regardless, Patton confidently declares that, “We will continue to provide value to our customers to be able to create new products, and we will innovate in ways other than simple scaling.”

At ITF, a video was shown of imec president Luc van den Hove interviewing Gordon Moore at his beachfront home in Hawaii. Moore has always been humble and claims no special ability to forecast trends. “It would not surprise me if we reached the end of scaling in the next decade,” said Moore. “I missed the importance of the PC, and I missed the importance of the internet. Predicting the future is a difficult job and I leave it to someone else.”

Wally Rhines seemed able to predict the future when he eloquent expounded upon Moore’s Law as a special-case learning-curve in his presentation at ITF. Rhines will provide one of the keynote addresses at the ConFab in Las Vegas this year (Solid State Technology’s home event, co-sponsored by SEMI and by IEEE-CPMT). Executives from the global industry will gather to hear insights and analysis on the challenges facing all companies in the ecosystem, as we search for profitable pathways in a more complex landscape.


Trefonas Earns 2016 Perkin Medal

The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), America Group, announced on May 5, 2016 that Peter Trefonas, Ph.D., corporate fellow in Electronic Materials at Dow Chemical Co (NYSE:DOW), has won the 2016 SCI Perkin Medal. This honor recognizes Trefonas’ contributions in the development of chemicals that enable microlithography for the fabrication of microelectronic circuits. Trefonas will receive the medal at a dinner in his honor on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, at the Hilton Penn’s Landing Hotel in Philadelphia.

TrefonasTrefonas made major contributions to the development of many successful products which are used in the production of integrated circuits spanning device design generations from 2 microns to 14 nanometers. These include photoresists, antireflectant coatings, underlayers, developers, and ancillary products. At the most recent SPIE Advanced Lithography conference he was part of a team that presented on the use of a resolution extension material, “Chemical trimming overcoat: an enhancing composition and process for 193nm lithography.”

He is an inventor on 61 US patents, has over 25 additional published active U.S. patent applications, is an author of 99 journal and technical publications, and is a recent recipient of both the 2014 ACS Heroes of Chemistry Award and the 2014 SPIE Willson Award. His research career began at Monsanto, and moved via acquisitions by Shipley, Rohm&Haas, and Dow.


SAQP Specs for 7nm finFETs

As discussed in my last Ed’s Threads, lithography has become patterning as evidenced by first use of Self-Aligned Quadruple Patterning (SAQP) in High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) of memory chips. Meanwhile, industry R&D hub imec has been investigating use of SAQP for “7nm” and “5nm” node finFET HVM, as reported as SPIE-AL this year in Paper 9782-12.
The specifications for pitches ranging from 18 to 24 nanometers are as follow:

  • 7.0nm Critical Dimension (CD) after etch,
  • 0.5nm (3sigma) CD uniformity (CDU), and
  • <1nm Line-Width and Line-End Roughness (LWR and LER) assuming 10% of CD.

“Pitch walk”—variation in final pitch after multi-patterning—results in different line widths, and can result in subsequent excessive etch variation due to non-uniform loading effects. To keep the pitch walk in SAQP at acceptable levels for the 7nm node, the core-1 CDU has to be 0.5nm 3sigma and 0.8nm range after both litho and etch. In other presentations at SPIE-AL this year, the best LER after litho was ~4nm, improving to ~2nm after PEALD smoothing of sidewalls, but still double the desired spec.

The team at imec developed a SAQP flow using amorphous-Carbon (aC) and amorphous-Silicon (aSi) as the cores, and low-temperature Plasma-Enhanced Atomic-Layer Deposition (PEALD) of SiO2 for both sets of spacers. Bilayer DARC (SiOC) and BARC were used for reflectivity control. Compared to SAQP schemes where the mandrels are only aSi, imec claims that this approach saves 20% in cost due to the use of aC core and the elimination of etch-stopping-layers.


Litho becomes Patterning

Once upon a time, lithographic (litho) processes were all that IC fabs needed to transfer the design-intent into silicon chips. Over the last 10-15 years, however, IC device structural features have continued to shrink below half the wavelength of the laser light used in litho tools, such that additional process steps are needed to form the desired features. Self-Aligned Double Patterning (SADP) schemes use precise coatings deposited as “spacers” on the sidewalls of mandrels made from developed photoresist or a sacrificial material at a given pitch, such that after selective mandrel etching the spacers pitch-split. SADP has been used in HVM IC fabs for many years now. Self-Aligned Quadruple Pattering (SAQP) has reportedly been deployed in a memory IC fab, too.

An excellent overview of the patterning complexities of SAQP was provided by Sophie Thibaut of TEL in a presentation at SPIE-AL on “SAQP integration using spacer on spacer pitch splitting at the resist level for sub-32nm pitch applications.” Use of a spacer-on-spacer process flow—enabled by clever combinations of SiO2 and TiO2 spacers deposited by Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)—requires the following unit-process steps:
1 193i litho,
2 ALD spacers,
2 wet etches, and
4 plasma etches.

Since non-litho processes dominate the transfer of design-intent to silicon, from first principles we should consider such integrated flows as “patterning.” Etch selectivity to remove one material while leaving another, and deposition dependent on underlying materials determine much of the pattern fidelity. Such process flows are new to IC fabs, but have been used for decades in the manufacturing of Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS), though generally on a patterning length scale of microns instead of the nanometers needed for advanced ICs. R&D labs today are even experimenting with Self-Aligned Octuple Patterning (SAOP), and based on the legacy of MEMS processing it certainly could be done.


CMOS-Photonic Integration Thermally Sensitive

As published in the journal Nature, CMOS transistors have been integrated with optical-resonator circuits using complex on-chip sensors and heaters to maintain temperature to within 1°C. While lacking the laser-source, these otherwise-fully-integrated solutions demonstrate both the capability as well as the limitation of trying to integrate electronics and photonics on a single-chip. The Figure shows a simplified schematic cross-section of the device.

Full chip cross-section (not to scale) from the silicon substrate to the C4 solder balls, showing the structures of electrical transistors, waveguides, and contacted optical devices. The minimum separation between transistors and waveguides is <1 μm, set only by the distance at which evanescent light from the waveguide begins to interact with the structures of the transistor.

Full chip cross-section (not to scale) from the silicon substrate to the C4 solder balls, showing the structures of electrical transistors, waveguides, and contacted optical devices. (Source: Nature)

Lead author Chen Sun—affiliated with UC Berkeley and MIT, as well as with commercial enterprise Ayar Labs, Inc.—developed the thermal tuning circuitry, designed the memory bank, implemented the ‘glue-logic’ between various electronic components, and performed top-level assembly of electronics and photonics. The main limitation is the temperature control, since deviation by more than 1°C results in loss of coupling that otherwise provides for P2M/M2P transceivers:

* Waveguide Loss – 4.3 dB/cm,
* Tx and Rx Data Rate – 2.5 Gb/s,
* Tx Power – 0.02 pJ/bit,
* Rx Power – 0.50 pJ/bit, and
* Ring Tuning Control Power – 0.19 pJ/bit, so
* Total power consumption = 0.71 pJ/bit.

The Register reports that this prototype has a bandwidth density of 300 Gb/s per square millimetre, and needs 1.3W to shift a Tb/s straight from the die to off-chip memory. A single chip integrates >70 million transistors and 850 photonic components to provide microprocessor logic, memory, and interconnect functions.


ALD of Crystalline High-K SHTO on Ge

Alternative channel materials (ACM) such as germanium (Ge) will need to be integrated into future CMOS ICs, and one part of the integration was shown at the recent Materials Research Society (MRS) spring meeting by John Ekerdt, Associate Dean for Research in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, in his presentation on “Atomic Layer Deposition of Crystalline SrHfxTi1-xO3 Directly on Ge (001) for High-K Dielectric Applications.”

Strontium hafnate, SrHfO3 (SHO), and strontium titanate, SrTiO3 (STO), with dielectric constants of ~15 and ~90 (respectively) can be grown directly on Ge using atomic layer deposition (ALD). Following a post-deposition anneal at 550-590°C for 5 minutes, the perovskite films become crystalline with epitaxial registry to the underlying Ge (001) substrate. Capacitor structures using the crystalline STO dielectric show a k~90 but also high leakage current. In efforts to optimize electrical performance including leakage current and dielectric constant, crystalline SrHfxTi1-xO3 (SHTO) can be grown directly on Ge by ALD. SHTO benefits from a reduced leakage current over STO and a higher k value than SHO. By minimizing the epitaxial strain and maintaining an abrupt interface, the SHTO films are expected to reduce dielectric interface-traps (Dit) at the oxide-Ge interface.

Much of the recent conference has been archived, and can now be accessed online.