2 November 2010


Plessey starts development of 8” SiGe BiCMOS to expand RF capability

Plessey Semiconductors Ltd says that it has started the development of 0.35 micron silicon germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS process technology on its 8-inch line at its manufacturing facility in Roborough, Plymouth, UK.

Plessey Semiconductors was created at the beginning of this year with the renaming of Plus Semi, which had acquired silicon foundry X-FAB UK Ltd (including the manufacturing facilities of two former Plessey fabs in Roborough and Swindon, UK). Bipolar production lines (using both silicon and silicon-on-insulator substrates) have since been transferred from the Swindon facility to the original Plessey CMOS fab at Roborough, operating initially as a 0.35-micron foundry (with annual capacity of 30,000 8-inch wafers) supporting the former customers of X-FAB before designing and manufacturing its own bipolar and CMOS chips.

The firm now says that, as part of its strategy of developing its three core product lines of sensors, RF components and power management devices, it decided that a bespoke SiGe BiCMOS process was required.

“We have looked at SiGe bipolar and BiCMOS process technologies for some time and have developed processes for other fabs,” says chief technologist Dr Peter Osborne. “Our exceptional complementary bipolar processes on SiGe, together with our 0.35 micron CMOS capability, should provide a compelling platform from which Plessey can develop outstanding product lines,” he believes.

Products manufactured using this process will take advantage of having a 70GHz, 2.5V breakdown voltage architecture together with a 40GHz 5V breakdown voltage architecture on the same substrate. The process will also include a range of analog and high-performance passive components including Schottky diodes, varactors, high-Q inductors and MIM capacitors.

The combination of a high-frequency capability combined with high voltage and the added component features opens up a wide range of applications, reckons Plessey Semiconductors. Potential products include: high-performance transceivers for optical communications, next-generation data converters for test & measurement systems, and high-speed amplifiers including logarithmic amplifiers; for example, a log amp design using the new SiGe technology could operate at frequencies up to 5GHz (a ten-fold increase in performance compared with a previous technology implementation).

Plessey Semiconductors plans for the SiGe BiCMOS process to be generally available by mid-2011 and for the first products to be sampled by end 2011.

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