17 March 2021
X-FAB and IHP collaborate on SiGe BiCMOS and RF-SOI technology
Analog/mixed-signal, micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) and specialty foundry X-FAB Silicon Foundries SE of Tessenderlo, Belgium and German government-funded IHP - Leibniz Institute for High Performance Microelectronics of Frankfurt (Oder) have announced an industry-academic partnership to bring together X-FAB’s proficiency in semiconductor manufacturing with IHP’s wireless communication expertise, to exchange knowledge, and to establish mutually beneficial engineering synergies.
IHP’s active devices will be directly integrated into the backend of line (BEOL) of X-FAB’s 130nm XR013 radio-frequency silicon-on-insulator (RF-SOI) process featuring copper (Cu) and thick-Cu based metallization, alongside high-performance passive elements such as inductors and transformers. This integration will mean that a wide array of next-generation wireless systems concepts can be experimented with.
Another key focus for the collaborative work that has been conducted is the development of silicon-germanium (SiGe) bipolar complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (BiCMOS) technologies. At the foundation of this will be IHP’s SiGe heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs). These offer strong performance parameters, with fT/fmax figures of up to 250/340GHz for SG13S-Cu and up to 300/500GHz for SG13G2-Cu. The 3µm-thick low-loss copper interconnects employed are also certain to prove valuable in helping to boost RF performance levels.
Prototyping services for both the RF-SOI and SiGe BiCMOS technologies are offered through IHP and the EUROPRACTICE consortium. There will be opportunities for the technologies developed by IHP and X-FAB in relation to optoelectronics and 5G wireless communication systems, as well as for innovative radar implementations.
Picture: Cross sections of SiGe BiCMOS wafer taken by scanning electron microscope.
“SiGe BiCMOS remains an attractive prospect for a number of wireless applications, including 5G, because it enables the integration of high-performance RF on a silicon-based platform. IHP and X-FAB both recognize the huge potential here,” says Dr Greg U’Ren, X-FAB’s director of RF technology. “The technologies that we are working on are the fruit of a synergistic relationship that leverages the respective strengths of each partner,” he adds.
“This partnership enables us to transfer first-class research into commercial applications laying ground for next-generation high-performance RF systems, such as 400G data communication, 60-300GHz radars and sub-THz imaging,” comments IHP’s scientific director professor Gerhard Kahmen.