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5 June 2013

IBM launches fifth-gen SiGe process, compatible with 90nm CMOS

IBM has introduced the fifth generation of its semiconductor technology specialized for high-performance communications. The firm’s latest silicon-germanium (SiGe) chip-making process is designed to enable increasing amounts of data to flow through network backbones in applications such as Wi-Fi, LTE cellular, wireless backhaul and high-speed optical communications.

IBM claims that, since its introduction in 1995, SiGe technology has helped to spur a revolution in radio frequency (RF) performance, enabling the development of devices such as satellite global positioning systems, WiFi radios and high-speed optical links.

IBM’s new 9HP SiGe technology targets the design of chips for LTE cellular base-stations, millimeter-wave wireless communication links, and next-generation short- and long-haul optical communications. In addition to communications, the performance of the 9HP process can benefit other applications such as high-performance test equipment, automotive radar and security imaging, reckons IBM.

“Silicon-germanium is one of the key technologies that have enabled wireless operators to keep up with the explosive growth in data traffic generated from mobile handsets,” says IBM fellow David Harame. “Before SiGe, the high-performance chips used in base-stations and optical links were built using expensive, esoteric processes,” he adds. “SiGe provides the necessary performance as well as integration and cost savings via its CMOS base.”

Open collaboration key to success

IBM says that, over the years, technology firms have worked closely with it to develop and refine new versions of the chip-making process. IBM believes that open collaboration between companies will drive future innovation in semiconductors.

“As early adopters of IBM’s SiGe technology, Semtech has consistently pushed the envelope on what can be achieved in high-speed wired and wireless communications systems and in high-performance analog devices,” says Charles Harper, senior VP of the Systems Innovation Group at Semtech Corp of Camarillo, CA, USA, which supplies analog and mixed-signal semiconductors for high-end consumer, computing, communications and industrial equipment. “Semtech is a leader in 40Gbps and 100Gbps communications systems, and with IBM’s latest SiGe technology we believe we can emerge as a leader in several new analog segments where performance, integration and power are critical requirements,” he adds.

“Our long collaboration with IBM on SiGe technology has enabled Tektronix to break new barriers on what can be achieved in high-fidelity, high-bandwidth oscilloscopes,” comments Kevin Ilcisin, chief technology officer of test, measurement and monitoring equipment supplier Tektronix of Beaverton, OR, USA. “We utilized IBM’s SiGe 9HP for our patent-pending asynchronous interleaving approach, and expect to break new ground by providing customers bandwidth capabilities of 70GHz and beyond while significantly improving our signal-to-noise ratio.”

Technology details and specifications

IBM claims that 9HP will be the first SiGe technology featuring the density of 90nm CMOS, enabling the highest level of integration in a fully production-qualified SiGe BiCMOS technology. IBM adds that its new SiGe BiCMOS technology delivers higher performance, lower power and higher levels of integration than current 180nm or 130nm SiGe offerings. 

The technology maintains compatibility with the firm’s 90nm low-power CMOS technology platform, enabling foundry clients to port a wide range of intellectual property circuit blocks and standard cell library elements. The 90nm foundry platform also includes an RF CMOS technology option, giving foundry customers a broad range of technology choices for RF and mixed-signal applications, says IBM.

Specific technical details include: SiGe heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) NPNs with a current-gain cut-off frequency (fT) of 300GHz and power-gain cut-off frequency (or maximum oscillation frequency, fmax) of more than 350GHz; 90nm CMOS FETs (1.5V, 2.5V/3.3V); thick dielectric add-on modules (low-K, Cu, Al); a full suite of passives (resistors, varactors, MOS and MIM capacitors, high-Q inductors, millimeter-wave elements); PIN and THz Schottky barrier diodes; and process design kits (PDKs) featuring precision RF device models.

See related items:

IBM unveils highly integrated SiGe-based mm-wave transceiver for mobile communications and radar imaging

IBM’s 8HP SiGe process meets Tektronix 30+GHz oscilloscope design goals

Tektronix using 200GHz IBM’s 8HP SiGe technology for 30GHz oscilloscopes

Tags: IBM SiGe Tektronix




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