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2 March 2016

EU's INSIGHT project to develop III-V nanowire-based CMOS on silicon system-on-chip

Future radar imaging systems and 5G communication systems will generate improved resolution and provide higher data-transmission rates when operated at higher frequencies, but at the cost of increased power consumption. To reduce power consumption, increase performance and lower costs, the European project INSIGHT (Integration of III-V Nanowire Semiconductors for Next Generation High Performance CMOS SOC Technologies) targets the development of III-V CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) technology.

Aiming to establish a manufacturable III-V CMOS technology on silicon substrates in order to reduce costs and to save scarce materials, the six consortium partners include Germany's Fraunhofer Institute of Applied Solid-State Physics (IAF), France's micro/nanotechnology R&D center CEA-LETI, Sweden's Lund University, the UK's University of Glasgow, Ireland's Tyndall National Institute and Switzerland's IBM Zurich. INSIGHT has been funded with €4.25m over 36 months (from December 2015 to November 2018) under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program of the European Union (EU).

INSIGHT's mission is to develop complementary functionality in compound semiconductor material (III-V CMOS), supporting both analog and digital functionality in the millimeter-wave frequency domain. III-V nanowires will be used to maintain electrostatic control, as the gate length is scaled for future technology nodes. The small nanowire cross-section further facilitates the integration onto silicon substrates using nanotechnology.

"The fabrication of high-performance III-V components on large silicon substrates using CMOS-compatible technologies opens a path for cost reduction of millimeter-wave key components with minimized usage of critical materials" says Lund University professor Lars-Erik Wernersson (INSIGHT's coordinator).

IBM foresees a growing need to push the limits of chip technology to meet the emerging demands of cognitive computers, Internet of Things and Cloud platforms, due to the enormous amount of data they are handling – 90% of which is unstructured. The new technology developed in INSIGHT offers a potential solution to scale chip technology beyond the 10nm node as well as opening up a range of new application areas. Integrating III-V materials into silicon CMOS can enable better logic circuits with lower power consumption, and can also enable the realization of system-on-chip (SoC) products taking full advantage of III-V's RF/analog metrics.

There is a growing need for performance enhancement of key components in the millimeter-wave frequency range and new consumer applications are demanding low costs. The new technology offers a potential solution, as it may provide both high-performance analog and digital functionality on the same platform where the improved manufacturability allows production on larger wafers. INSIGHT addresses the technology need with the aim to demonstrate circuits and systems by optimizing both material and device properties.

For the heterogeneous integration of III-V materials on silicon substrates using nanowires, Fraunhofer IAF will bring its III-V process and circuit design experience, and is interested in transferring the results and findings to next-generation III-V device technologies.

LETI's participation involves both the Silicon Component division and the Integrated Circuit & Embedded System division, ranging from materials to the circuit demonstration. The technology expands the LETI platform for smart devices and Internet of Things with the potential to squeeze multiple functions into a single die.

III-V CMOS technology may be particularly suitable for millimeter-wave front-ends where it will be used to detect and generate signals for communication, radar and imaging. INSIGHT's goal is to develop key technologies for both the receivers and transmitters, while exploring the limits of the transistor geometry and layout.

The expertise of the project partners spans the complete spectrum from materials, through devices, all the way to circuits and systems, allowing the consortium to take the technology further along the path to commercial products, it is reckoned.

Tags: III-Vs-on-Si

Visit: http://insight.eit.lth.se

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