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ST's FDSOI process churns out 3GHz processor engines

Posted: 22 Feb 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FDSOI? NovaThor? LTE? application processor? FinFET?

STMicroelectronics has given a sneak peak for its fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) manufacturing process. The latest piece of information is that the 28nm version of the process has produced application processor "engines" capable of being operated at clock frequencies in excess of 3GHz.

ST has not made clear what the difference between an engine and a processor is, or what extremes of operating temperature were tolerated to achieve the 3GHz.

The FDSOI planar process, which for now remains a minority interest being promoted by ST, is claimed to have advantages over other more mainstream manufacturing process variants, such as bulk planar CMOS and FinFET CMOS in terms of trade-offs between performance, power consumption and manufacturability.

"As we had anticipated, FDSOI is proving to be fast, simple and cool; we had fully expected to see 3GHz operating speeds, the design approach is very consistent with what we had been doing in bulk CMOS, and, with the benefits of fully depleted channels and back biasing, the low-power requirements are also meeting our expectations," said Jean-Marc Chery, chief technology and manufacturing officer of STMicroelectronics, in a statement.

For reference the NovaThor L8580 LTE-capable application processor from ST-Ericsson has been benchmarked at operating at up to 2.5GHz clock frequency at peak performance, but also capable of operating down at 0.6V to conserve power. So it might be reasonable to infer that ST is saying the L8580 and processors like it could be pushed to beyond 3GHz if the developers so desired.

The use of back basing of silicon beneath the oxide insulator theoretically allows additional high-end performance and the SOI process can also produce operational circuits at lower voltages than alternative processes, proponents claim.

ST has previously claimed that at 28nm, its FDSOI process can provide 30 per cent more performance than bulk 28nm CMOS at the same power consumption, or, alternatively, can provide as much as a 50 per cent saving in dynamic power consumption at the same performance. That claim may be increased as the company pushes out the top-end performance.

ST said it has found the porting of libraries and physical IP from 28nm bulk CMOS to 28nm FDSOI to be straightforward. The process of then designing digital circuits with conventional CAD tools has been identical to designing for bulk CMOS, the company said.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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