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IBM alliance makes progress in 32nm high-k metal gates

Posted: 16 Apr 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:high-k metal gates? 32nm dielectrics process? IBM alliance?

IBM Corp. and its partners in the race to develop and ship high-k dielectrics and metal gates for the 32nm node have officially revealed their process and are claiming they can now outperform the rest of the industry in performance and power consumption.

The groupwhich includes Infineon Technologies AG, ST Microelectronics NV, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd, Freescale Semiconductor Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd and Toshiba Corp.demonstrated their performance breakthrough on silicon manufactured at IBM's 300mm semiconductor fab in East Fishkill, New York.

They claim the circuits had, on average, 35 percent better performance than 45nm technology circuits at the same operating voltage. The 32nm also consumed 30-50 percent less power than the 45nm, with respect to operating voltage.

Performance enhancements
The group also said testing on product library test chip and industry-standard microprocessor critical paths has shown performance improvements of up to 40 percent over conventional (Poly/SiON) technology at the same technology dimensions.

The companies said the technology will be available to IBM and its alliance partners in the second half of 2009 and said its customers and clients can start designing devices using the process immediately.

High-k and metal gates are key building blocks for scaling and enabling the next-generation transistor. But the technologies' complexity raises questions about whether foundries can ramp production with high-k materials and metal gates in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Gary Patton, VP of IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center, said that the latest results show that "as our collective client base moves to next-generation technology by using the 'gate-first' approach, they will continue to maintain a significant competitive advantage."

Rival foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd is quietly readying its own high-k/metal gate technology but has not announced a timetable for release. TSMC has said its general 32nm process is slated for "risk production" by Q3 or Q4 2009.

IBM says that silicon support for low-power 32nm HKMG technology will be available in Q3 2008, and that the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering has just completed feasibility results showing that the process can also be extended to 22nm.

Similar efforts
Other leading-edge foundries, including Fujitsu Ltd, Semiconductor International Manufacturing Corp. (SMIC), Toshiba and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), are separately developing high-k/metal-gate solutions. Thus far, only Intel Corp. and NEC Electronics Inc. have announced they are shipping logic devices equipped with high-k materials. Intel is shipping processors based on high-k and metal gates at the 45nm node. NEC has delivered ASICs based on high-k at 55nm. In January 2007, the IBM alliance used high-k/metal gate in a portion of the transistor that controls its primary on/off switching function, and this is what led to the development of the smaller, faster and more power-efficient 32nm circuitry.

Dirk Wrister, director of process technology at Freescale, noted that "this early design and modeling work indicates that the high-k/metal gate technology is going to deliver a significant product and performance differentiation. These early results are a significant step in the demonstration of high-k/metal gate viability in 32nm technology."

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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