Hetero-integration: Cherry-picking for better chips

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The combination of different semiconductor technologies on one chip promises greater performance and functionality in high-frequency and power electronics, for example. For small and medium-sized enterprises and for medium quantities, access to this key technology is essential.

For a long time now, today’s chip structures are no longer recognizable to the naked eye. Conductor paths are only a few atoms wide. The so-called “Moore’s Law”, according to which the number of transistors on a chip had to double at a similar cost every one to two years, was the guarantor for miniaturization for decades.

“More than Moore” – the new Marshall Plan from Intel and Co. – turns away from purely scaling the number of components. The semiconductor industry is now increasingly trying to enhance the functionality and efficiency of the chips, by integrating different semiconductor technologies “monolithically” on one chip, for example. This so-called “hetero-integration” combines the best of different worlds. And components for analog and digital signal and data processing, communication or sensor technology can thus be integrated into extremely small and powerful systems.

Hetero-integration with gallium nitride

Fraunhofer IAF relies on the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) for the construction of monolithic integrated circuits (ICs) for high performance and high frequencies. It offers high power densities while maintaining a high level of efficiency. It is also characterized by excellent high-frequency properties and low energy consumption and can operate at much higher voltages than silicon. This makes it ideal for power electronics components. In addition, gallium nitride already “glows” in blue, green and white LEDs and “switches” in the high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMT) of high-frequency technology. An estimated market volume of $200 million in 2020, with an average annual growth rate of 80 percent, has ensured significantly accelerated development in this area.

Hetero-integration for SMEs

Especially for medium-sized companies, the further development of hetero-integration opens up an opportunity for affordable high-performance technology. For small and medium-sized enterprises and for medium quantities, access to this key technology is essential. Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) initiative FMD (Forschungsfabrik Mikroelektronik Deutschland – Research Fab Microelectronics Germany) together with the institutes of the Fraunhofer-Verbund Mikroelektronik (Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics) and two Leibniz institutes now want to make access for small batch production possible.

Hetero-integration – the projects

Together with partners from industry and research, Fraunhofer IAF is working on realizing this goal in the projects Hyteck and CoGaN. The aim of Hyteck is a compact hybrid integration platform for high-frequency circuits. CoGaN, on the other hand, is researching novel packaging technologies for gallium nitride-based high-frequency electronic systems. The goal here is to provide these complex components with the best possible protection against environmental influences.

The two projects are part of the BMBF’s research initiative “Technologien zur Systemintegration für zukünftige Elektroniksysteme (TechSys)” (systems integration technology for future electronic systems).

 

 

 

 

Hetero-integration (Image: Fraunhofer IAF).

With “hetero-integration” components for analog and digital signal and data processing, communication or sensor technology can be integrated into extremely small and powerful systems. (Image: Fraunhofer IAF).