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Peregrine Semiconductor Corp of San Diego, CA, USA, which designs and supplies RF CMOS and mixed-signal communications ICs based on its patented UltraCMOS silicon-on-sapphire (SOS) process technology, has announced an exclusive joint development agreement with IBM Microelectronics for the manufacture of future generations of UltraCMOS, which is claimed to be the industry’s highest-performance radio-frequency complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (RF CMOS) process. When fully qualified, the next-generation UltraCMOS RF ICs will be manufactured by IBM for Peregrine in the jointly developed 180nm process at IBM’s 200mm fabrication plant in Burlington, VT.
Peregrine claims that its UltraCMOS technology delivers unmatched levels of RF performance and monolithic integration for high-growth applications such as the RF front-end of mobile phones and multi-mode, multi-band mobile wireless devices; broadband communications including 4G LTE equipment and base stations; mobile DTV/CATV RF signal conditioning; and space satellite systems.
Peregrine’s UltraCMOS technology is a patented variation of silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology that incorporates an ultra-thin layer of silicon on a highly insulating sapphire substrate. IBM’s addition of 180nm UltraCMOS to its portfolio of RFSOI technologies marks the first commercial use of 200mm (8-inch) wafer processing for silicon-on-sapphire process, says Regina Darmoni, director of IBM's Analog/Mixed-Signal and Digital Foundry business. This will drive the next decade of UltraCMOS engineering, reckons Peregrine.
Migration to 200mm wafers facilitates the evolution of Peregrine’s UltraCMOS process to 180nm, 130nm and 90nm nodes, as well as providing access to advanced manufacturing toolsets and enabling much expanded digital integration capability. The agreement with IBM also provides - through its Technology Alliance partners - unprecedented levels of manufacturing capacity and a robust supply chain, says Peregrine.
“Our company has long been committed to driving technological change in RF by bringing our silicon-on-sapphire RF process into the global mainstream,” says Peregrine’s president & CEO Jim Cable. “By combining the strengths of our two companies, we are continuing to deliver the promise of Moore’s Law for high-performance RF CMOS.”
Collaboration between the two firms began in 2008 as the ability to use CMOS for RF designs emerged as a viable alternative to compound semiconductor processes such as gallium arsenide, Peregrine claims. The benefits of CMOS include reliability, cost-effectiveness, high yields, portability, scalability and integration. In addition, one of the earliest innovations for Peregrine’s UltraCMOS technology is the HaRP design methodology, which brought about what are claimed to be unprecedented levels of harmonic performance. More recently, Peregrine introduced DuNE technology, which produced digitally tunable capacitors that solve long-standing industry design challenges in RF tuning.
“The realization of our 180nm UltraCMOS process on 200mm sapphire wafers is a very important phase of our long-term process development strategy,” comments Mark Miscione, Peregrine’s VP & chief strategist for technology solutions. “Throughout the last several years, we have invested significant capital and effort with our partners to strengthen the overall SOS supply chain and improve the economics of the base sapphire substrate material. This has been accomplished by the global acceptance of SOS technology, as evidenced by the more than 600 million UltraCMOS RF ICs shipped from our foundries within the past few years,” he adds. “These improvements have also been fueled by the tremendous volume of sapphire now being used by the rapidly expanding LED lighting industry.”
The first 180nm UltraCMOS RFICs have sampled to a key customer, and commercial production release is expected in 2011. Initial product roadmaps include configurable RF cellular front-ends in the form of high-power RF switches, tunable components, and power amplifiers.