Category Archives: Manufacturing

Altair Semiconductor (, a provider of cellular IoT chipsets, announced today it has partnered with JIG-SAW Inc. ( ), a provider of A&A (Auto sensor-ing and Auto Direction) solutions for IoT, to develop LTE-enabled sensors for a wide variety of global industrial IoT applications.

The partnership combines Altair’s dual-mode Cat-M/NB-IoT ALT1250 chipset with JIG-SAW’s software control technology to enable developers to create new IoT business models that can drive new efficiencies across their organizations. Potential market applications include IoT sensors for warehouse site management, equipment monitoring, logistics, and more.

“We are pleased to partner with Altair Semiconductor to bring end-to-end, power and cost-optimized LTE-connected solutions to IoT users around the world,” said Hiroto Ozaki, Chief Operating Officer of JIG-SAW. “The IoT market is expanding rapidly, and enabling control not only via the cloud, but also within the modem chip layer, offers significant value for IoT users by providing high monitoring quality and stabilized, consistent services.”

The collaboration will enable users with connected IoT devices to control and monitor individual devices and their statuses at all times via a modem chip connection. Additionally, auto-control services will enable users to address alerts in a timely manner.

“Because Wi-Fi is not always feasible or efficient for many industrial IoT applications, cellular is a strategic alternative for reliable, secure and low-cost connectivity to the cloud,” said Ilan Reingold, VP of Business Development and Marketing for Altair Semiconductor. “We are excited to collaborate with JIG-SAW to bring the most secure and effective LTE-enabled solutions to the global industrial sensors market.”

The integration will be demonstrated by JIG-SAW this month at re:Invent 2018 , the Amazon Web Services annual user conference, in Las Vegas from November 26-30. The service is scheduled to launch in the Spring of 2019.

SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) announced today that two professors have been selected to receive a total of $330,000 via the awarding of two separate nanoscience and nanoengineering-focused grants:

  • Professor of Nanoscience Dr. Serge Oktyabrsky has been awarded $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research aiming to demonstrate a novel type of scintillation detector that upon detection of small particles, can emit measurable light with unsurpassed speed and yield. This greater sensitivity and speed is essential for several DOE High Energy Physics areas of research, and could help to detect the interaction of quantum particles to better understand their properties and actions, for example, in addition to the potential for medical and nuclear security applications; and
  • Assistant Professor of Nanoengineering Dr. Spyros Gallis (Spyridon Galis) was awarded $130,000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) — Directorate of Engineering for research which will help develop critical physical properties and provide a fundamental understanding of new silicon carbide photonic nanostructures that have erbium ions added to them for the realization of high-temperature CMOS-compatible quantum emitters at telecommunications wavelengths. The emission from erbium ions at telecommunication wavelengths can be controlled and amplified by these photonic nanostructures and can improve light-based devices, with applications in areas such as biological imaging and sensing, quantum storage of single-photons, and long-distance quantum communications.

“I am proud to congratulate Professors Serge Oktyabrsky and Spyros Gallis for being awarded these grants which will support research that could help us to better understand the behavior of fundamental particles through improved detection capabilities, in addition to providing us with further knowledge about how photonic nanostructures, combined with erbium ions, can be used to improve a variety of quantum-based applications,” said SUNY Poly Interim President Dr. Grace Wang. “We are thankful to the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation for recognizing the exciting potential of these research projects being led by our outstanding faculty members who continue to push the boundaries of knowledge as they provide hands-on educational opportunities for our students.”

Both research projects will provide hands-on learning opportunities to SUNY Poly students. In Dr. Oktyabrsky’s lab, a graduate student will build the scintillation detector and perform its initial testing, along with support from two SUNY Poly staff scientists. Dr. Gallis’ research project will provide first-hand laboratory experience for both undergraduate and graduate students at SUNY Poly, as well as summer interns, who will simulate with numerical calculations the theoretical behavior of erbium emissions in the photonic nanostructures.

“These two grants are the latest example of how SUNY Poly’s faculty are driving research that can impact a wide range of applications and enhance our understanding of the world around us,” said SUNY Poly Interim Provost Dr. Steven Schneider. “The DOE and NSF grants will allow SUNY Poly students to take an active, hands-on role in these important areas of research, and I congratulate Drs. Oktyabrsky and Gallis on this news.”

Dr. Oktyabrsky Research Grant—”Performance of scintillation detectors based on quantum dots in a semiconductor matrix”

The DOE award supports the development of quantum dots (QD’s), semiconducting Indium Arsenide (InAs) particles approximately 10 nanometers in size, embedded into a Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) matrix. This arrangement enables the QD’s to act as artificial luminescence centers, which, when struck by gamma rays or other particles, emit luminescence, thereby acting as a measurable detector of such particles. If successful, the research will lead to the development of scintillation detectors with unsurpassed speed and light yield.

The main goal of the proposed research is to develop and test a novel scientific approach and technology for a QD semiconductor scintillation detector, develop a physical understanding of the underlying processes, and establish credible performance parameters of the detector. As supported by the DOE, Office of Science, High Energy Physics (HEP) Program, the technology would mostly be focused on HEP applications, such as using the detectors to identify multiple primary interactions, for example, at the Tevatron or Large Hadron Collider. In addition, the development of an ultra-high rate photon counting detector could be used for muon-to-electron conversion experiments, and because they are expected to have unprecedented energy resolution at high counting rates, the QD semiconductor scintillators could also be useful for non-accelerator dark matter searches and searches for new physics phenomena.

Eventually, by taking advantage of the picosecond-range timing (one trillionth of a second) and energy resolution of single X-ray photons, these detectors could also be used to reduce the radiation doses that patients receive via medical imaging/tomography applications, such as those used in X-ray computed tomography, or CT Scans, as well as positron emission tomography, or PET scans, in addition to improving spectroscopic accuracy in nuclear security applications.

“I am thrilled to congratulate Dr. Oktyabrsky, whose research, supported by the Department of Energy, can lay a strong foundation for being able to detect and measure quantum particle behavior through this enhanced scintillation detector. This can enable a more detailed understanding of high-energy physics, with ramifications for how we comprehend the universe around us. Dr. Oktyabrsky’s research is just one great example of what our faculty are working on each day in collaboration with students, who are able to engage by using SUNY Poly’s world-class capabilities to design and deploy new tools for obtaining new information,” said SUNY Poly Interim Dean of the College of Nanoscale Sciences; Empire Innovation Professor of Nanoscale Science; and Executive Director, Center for Nanoscale Metrology Dr. Alain Diebold.

“I am thankful to the Department of Energy for this grant which will support Quantum Dot semiconductor scintillators that could provide about 5x higher light yield and 20x faster decay time, potentially opening a pathway for the development of very low mass tracking detectors with picosecond-scale time-of-flight resolution, along with gamma detectors with energy resolution close to 1% at 1 million electron volts and room temperature, which would be capable of sustaining counting rates greater than 100 megahertz, or one million cycles per second,” said Dr. Oktyabrsky. “In addition to my gratitude for this DOE award, I am also thankful to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) for providing inspirational guidance in high-energy physics applications and support with detectors testing.”

Dr. Spyros Gallis Research Grant—“EAGER: On-Demand Silicon Carbide Photonic Nanostructures for Quantum Optoelectronics at Telecom Wavelengths”

Dr. Gallis’ research project aims to address fundamental questions pertaining to the material and physical behaviors of erbium-doped silicon carbide (SiC) photonic nanostructures. By deterministically integrating rare-earth erbium ions and by being able to engineer the ion’s emission properties in these photonic nanostructures, Dr. Gallis expects to develop potentially disruptive advances in single-photon emission at low-loss telecom C-band wavelength region ~1540 nm. The light emitted by a single-photon emitter is fundamentally different from laser or thermally produced light. The key distinction relates to the time intervals between the emitted photons in the light beam. Photons can either cluster together in bunches or they can have regular gaps between them. In the latter case, an ion cannot emit two photons at once, which can lead to a non-classical light (single-photon emission) source. This is a required property for the development of future quantum optoelectronics and long-distance quantum communication applications using existing fiber-optical-based infrastructures. Applications that could also benefit include, for example, telecom quantum memories and repeaters, to enable the storage of information based on quantum bits, which are the more complex version of today’s bits that can have more than an on (1) or off (0) state.

“I am proud to congratulate Dr. Gallis on this NSF research grant, which can drive advancements in the burgeoning quantum computing and communication space, with opportunities to develop these cutting-edge technologies while allowing our students to gain first-hand skills that can serve them well for a lifetime of learning,” said SUNY Poly Interim Dean of the College of Nanoscale Engineering and Technology Innovation and Associate Professor of Nanoengineering Dr. Michael Carpenter.

“I am grateful to the NSF Electronics, Photonics and Magnetic Devices (EPMD) Program for the support of this research, which can pave pathways in the uncharted territories of quantum optoelectronics and communication at telecom C-band wavelengths, empowering me and my research team to innovate and educate,” said Dr. Gallis. “I am also excited that this research can further attract students to our globally recognized College of Nanoscale Engineering and Technology Innovation, inspiring them to work in new quantum photonics research programs that can lead to game-changing technological developments.”

News of these latest grants follows other recent research funding announcements by SUNY Poly, including:

  •  Associate Professor of Nanoengineering Dr. Woongje Sung was selected to receive $2,078,000 in total federal funding from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) for advancing the “MUSiC,” or the Manufacturing of Ultra-high-voltage Silicon Carbide devices for more robust power electronics chips with a range of military and commercial applications;
  •   Professor of Nanobioscience Dr. Nate Cady was recently awarded $500,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation to develop advanced computing systems based on a novel approach to the creation of non-volatile memory architecture;
  • Associate Professor of Nanobioscience Dr. Janet Paluh was recently awarded more than $970,000 from the New York State Health Department—Spinal Cord Injury Research Board (NYSCIRB) for collaborative research using nanotechnology and human stem cell-derived neural cell therapies to create an effective treatment platform for spinal cord injuries in patients, in addition to a $162,000 sub-award from the New York State Health Department—NYSTEM Innovative, Developmental, or Exploratory Activities (IDEA) program for collaborative research with the University at Albany to identify new types of injury and repair biomarkers based on cell communication to benefit prognosis or diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries; and
  • Associate Professor of Nanobioscience Dr. Michael Fasullo was awarded $446,000 by the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH-NIEHS) to investigate with a number of partners how genetics can increase the risk of diet-associated colon cancer.

With Korea expected to remain the world’s largest consumer of semiconductor equipment, building on its 18 percent share in 2018, SEMICON Korea 2019 is poised to connect global electronics manufacturing companies to new opportunities. More than 450 companies will gather at SEMICON Korea 23 – 25 January 2019, at the COEX in Seoul – for the latest microelectronics developments and trends from industry leaders and visionaries. Registration is now open.

SEMICON Korea, the premier event in Korea for electronics manufacturing, features key insights in artificial intelligence (AI), SMART manufacturing, talent and other critical industry issues. SEMICON Korea brings companies together to “Connect, Collaborate, and Innovate” as the event is poised to set a record of more than 2,000 booths.

  • CONNECT to business and technology leaders to uncover new industry relationships
  • COLLABORATE with industry experts across the electronics manufacturing supply chain
  • INNOVATE to drive new technologies and business

SEMICON Korea 2019 highlights include the following:

AI Summit – AI is powering the next phase of semiconductor industry growth with applications across automotive, manufacturing, and more. Summit attendees will meet industry leaders to discuss new AI collaborations and emerging business opportunities.

MEMS and Sensors Summit – Data acquisition from the edge is essential for IoT and AI to flourish, driving growth of the MEMS and sensor industry. Industry-leading MEMS and sensors companies will share their visions, technology roadmaps and business models for enabling IoT and AI.

SMART Manufacturing Forum – Manufacturing adaptability is a key enabler of advanced technologies and applications. Industry leaders will gather to explore what’s needed to leverage advanced analytics, improve the use of real-time simulation and cyber-physical systems and better integrate the supply chain to drive greater manufacturing flexibility.

Workforce Development – The new Workforce Pavilion at SEMICON Korea extends SEMI’s efforts to help tackle the industry’s vital need for talent. The Pavilion offers university students interviews with industry experts and tutorials on semiconductor production to help students explore career paths. SEMICON Korea will also launch a mentoring program to help students enter careers in semiconductor manufacturing.

SEMICON Korea 2019 will also feature its popular business matching program with seven device makers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) meeting with 100 potential customers.

“SEMICON Korea 2019 provides programs that help power industry growth,” said H.D. Cho, president of SEMI Korea. “We continue to expand our event offerings to offer new ways for the industry to “Connect, Collaborate and Innovate.”

For more event information, please click here.

By Paul Semenza

Automobiles have become an even more important segment for MEMS and sensors as carmakers integrate more chips for propulsion, navigation, and control into their designs. However, these advanced functions and their crisp rate of adoption have fragmented the sourcing of automotive chips. IHS Markit’s Jérémie Bouchaud provided a closer look at and outlook for this key market at the MEMS and Sensors Executive Congress in late October in Napa. Following are key takeaways from his presentation.

Autonomous and Electric/Hybrid Vehicles to Drive MEMS Market Growth

The automotive market, approaching 100 million vehicles produced annually, is approaching $6 billion, dominated by MEMS and silicon magnetic sensors for chassis and safety, and powertrain applications. Going forward, the market growth will be in autonomous vehicles and electric/hybrid vehicles. Because the penetration of electric and hybrid vehicles is much higher than that of autonomous vehicles, it has a larger available market, particularly for sensors. Each of these markets has its own dynamics.

For example, the electric and hybrid market has historically relied on a significant number of traditional, or non-semiconductor sensors, but new sensor technologies are vying to address multiple sensing needs. The most important limitation on demand of autonomous vehicles is the overall market penetration: IHS Markit expects autonomous vehicle production to reach 10 million at most by 2030.

Production of Electric and Hybrid Automobiles Now Growing at Fast Clip

Production of electric and hybrid vehicles is in a rapid growth phase, and IHS Markit expects penetration of such vehicles to reach 50% of the automotive market by 2030, up from 3% in 2016. The core functions of charging and power inversion require, among other capabilities, current, temperature and position sensing. Historically, many of these functions have been handled by non-semiconductor devices, for example negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors for temperature sensing, devices that appear to be strongly positioned. In other areas, semiconductor sensors are competing with traditional devices.

For example, silicon magnetoresistive devices are going head-to-head with inductive devices for position and Hall effect sensing. Sensing requirements are also likely to evolve over time, particularly as battery systems become more reliable and robust. While some automakers are looking to sensors to monitor pressure or gas leaks from batteries, battery makers are more focused on maturing the systems and reducing the need for monitoring.

Autonomous Vehicles Drive New Source of Demand for MEMS and Sensors

The movement towards automated driving has created a new source of demand for MEMS and sensors, with advanced driver assistance systems driving faster growth than the historical powertrain applications. Currently available vehicles are at Level 2 (partial automation), with multiple cameras and radars. Level 3 vehicles (conditional automation) are likely to enter the market next year, adding driver monitoring cameras, LIDAR systems and, potentially, microbolometers or other night-vision systems. Level 4 and 5 (high and full automation, respectively) will add vehicle-to-vehicle communications and other systems, but are not likely to be widely available for several years.

The autonomous vehicle market, while smaller overall compared to electric/hybrid vehicles, provides a more attractive opportunity for MEMS devices, particularly in LIDAR systems. LIDAR and other sensing/surveying systems are at the heart of autonomous vehicles, and MEMS devices are in demand for the critical beam-steering function. However, demand for image and other sensors will accelerate as the higher levels of autonomy are rolled out.

Automotive Drives Extremely Diverse Set of Applications for MEMS and Sensor Makers

The automotive market presents an extremely diverse set of applications for MEMS and sensor makers. Some companies have developed broad product portfolios and compete in multiple applications. For example, TDK offers NTC thermistors as well as MEMS and silicon-based sensors. Semiconductor companies such as Infineon are competing in MEMS and with silicon-based sensors such as magnetoresitive and Hall effect.

The growth in demand for image and radar sensors used in ADAS, as well as magnetoresistive and Hall sensors in EVs, means that the center of gravity in automotive markets is likely to shift from MEMS over the next several years – a fundamental change, Bouchaud cautioned, that will put automotive sensor suppliers focusing solely on MEMS at risk.

Paul Semenza is a consultant in SEMI Industry Research and Statistics. 

Rice University scientists are counting on films of carbon nanotubes to make high-powered, fast-charging lithium metal batteries a logical replacement for common lithium-ion batteries.

Rice University graduate student Gladys López-Silva holds a lithium metal anode with a film of carbon nanotubes. Once the film is attached, it becomes infiltrated by lithium ions and turns red. Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour showed thin nanotube films effectively stop dendrites that grow naturally from unprotected lithium metal anodes in batteries. Over time, these tentacle-like dendrites can pierce the battery’s electrolyte core and reach the cathode, causing the battery to fail.

That problem has both dampened the use of lithium metal in commercial applications and encouraged researchers worldwide to solve it.

Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes found in just about every electronic device, including cellphones and electric cars.

“One of the ways to slow dendrites in lithium-ion batteries is to limit how fast they charge,” Tour said. “People don’t like that. They want to be able to charge their batteries quickly.”

The Rice team’s answer, detailed in Advanced Materials, is simple, inexpensive and highly effective at stopping dendrite growth, Tour said.

“What we’ve done turns out to be really easy,” he said. “You just coat a lithium metal foil with a multiwalled carbon nanotube film. The lithium dopes the nanotube film, which turns from black to red, and the film in turn diffuses the lithium ions.”

“Physical contact with lithium metal reduces the nanotube film, but balances it by adding lithium ions,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Rodrigo Salvatierra, co-lead author of the paper with graduate student Gladys López-Silva. “The ions distribute themselves throughout the nanotube film.”

When the battery is in use, the film discharges stored ions and the underlying lithium anode refills it, maintaining the film’s ability to stop dendrite growth.

The tangled-nanotube film effectively quenched dendrites over 580 charge/discharge cycles of a test battery with a sulfurized-carbon cathode the lab developed in previous experiments. The researchers reported the full lithium metal cells retained 99.8 percent of their coulombic efficiency, the measure of how well electrons move within an electrochemical system.

Solar cells are a cost-effective, alternate source of energy. A subtype of these, organic solar cells make use of organic polymers inside the cell. Using these polymers makes the cells light-weight and increases their flexibility. Organic solar cells are produced by two different chemical methods: dry processing and wet processing, with the latter being a faster method. There are several parameters used to assess the efficiency of solar cells with absorption of light and transportation of charge being widely used.

A prevailing problem with the structure of organic cells is that molecules in the active organic layer responsible for light absorption and charge transport tend to face both towards the edges of cells, as well as towards the light absorbing substrate. Maximizing the number of molecules facing the substrate, however, is the key to maximising absorption and conductivity of the cell. Scientists have modified the dry processing method to achieve such an orientation, but it has not been possible with the wet method. The research team led by Tetsuya Taima at Kanazawa University, is the first to successfully do so.

The premise of their method is the introduction of a copper iodide (CuI) layer between the active molecules and the substrate. In their study, the researchers used a film of active molecules called DRCN5T and coated them onto either CuI/PEDOT: PSS (30 nm)/indium tin oxide (ITO) mixed substrates, or substrates without the CuI layer. The ratio of substrate facing to edge facing DRCN5T molecules was then compared between both. Subsequent high-resolution imaging revealed that the CuI containing cells had active molecules with a ten times higher substrate facing orientation, along with enhanced light absorption. The researchers attributed this altered orientation of the molecules to strong chemical interactions between the DRCN5T and CuI atoms. To further confirm this, DRCN5T molecules with bulky side chains that do not interact with CuI were used, and a higher substrate facing ratio was not seen.

This is the first study that effectively demonstrates a method of producing such efficient organic solar cells using the wet processing method. Besides saving time, the wet method also results in larger film areas. “This technique is expected to greatly contribute to the development of organic thin film solar cells fabricated by wet processing in the future”, conclude the authors. Their approach paves the way for producing high-performance solar cells faster.

By Nishita Rao

DARPA’s Vision of Cross-Collaboration

Ron Polcawich, program manager, DARPA Microsystems Technology Office, will give the closing keynote at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress on October 29-30, 2018 in Napa Valley, Calif. SEMI’s Nishita Rao spoke with Polcawich about the MEMS workshop on rapid innovation that he held earlier this year and his interest in continuing that conversation with a broad audience of MEMS and sensors suppliers attending MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress.

SEMI: What is your vision for the Rapid Innovation through Production MEMS (RIPM) concept and why does the MEMS and sensors industry need it?

Polcawich: The goal behind our RIPM concept is to advance the state of MEMS device technology by creating enhanced access to mature process flows for utilization by military, academic and commercial MEMS designers.

Compare MEMS to IC development and you will see much more rapid innovation in ICs. In many cases, IC designers can get through four design cycles in a calendar year because the process technologies are so mature.

In contrast, it can take three to four years to develop the process flow for a MEMS device. I believe that we can do better. With so much process-flow development in MEMS having taken place over the past 15 years, we now have plenty of commercial designs out there. How do we capitalize on these existing production process flows so we can rapidly innovate to avoid those painfully long production cycles?

With this question in mind, we launched a campaign to solicit feedback from small, medium and large foundries, integrated device manufacturers (IDMs), systems designers and integrators, and academic stakeholders. Our effort culminated in a May workshop where we were able to bring many of the same groups to the table. During one intensive day, we discussed challenges to the RIPM concept and what we would need to make it work.

SEMI: What were some of your areas of focus?

Polcawich: We covered a range of topics, from improving access to sophisticated packaging technology, such as advanced interposer technologies, to IP entanglement and the role of process design kits (PDKs).

SEMI: In an industry historically defined by competition over collaboration, how do you hope to convince MEMS supply-chain members to work together?

Polcawich: We see benefits from the proposed RIPM concept across the board. Foundries would benefit from outputting higher volumes of devices as well as charging for more sophisticated PDKs and process flows — which would comprise a new source of revenue for them.

From our discussions at the workshop and throughout the summer, we understand that certain technology sectors are going to be more willing to engage with the community than others. Notional examples that we highlighted at the workshop include the possibility of manufacturing high-performance inertial sensors, oscillators and pressure sensors within the same process flow. The challenge to the community is having the MEMS designers work within a locked-down process flow and not requesting different material layers, gaps and critical feature dimensions for each device type, which is very common within our industry. We asked everyone the question, “If there were broader access to production process flows, would faster technology transition and innovation cycles enable a more rapid time-to-market for a wider range of products?”

SEMI: What would you like MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress attendees to take away from your presentation?

Polcawich: We welcome additional feedback on the RIPM concept to help shape any potential program ideas. Furthermore, we would like assistance in identifying tipping-point technologies on each sector’s/foundry’s/IDM’s technology roadmap. We could use that information to determine mutual investment opportunities that could shift the roadmap timelines to the left, enabling more rapid production and commercialization timelines.  

Dr. Ronald Polcawich joined DARPA as a Program Manager in the Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) in August 2017. His research interests include advanced materials processing, micromechanics for small-scale robotics, device designs, and miniaturized position, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems. Read more.

Polcawich will present Rapid Innovation with Production MEMS Workshop Outbrief on Tuesday, October 30 at MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress in Napa Valley, Calif.

Register today to connect with Ron and learn about DARPA’s rapid innovation in MEMS concept.

Nishita Rao is a marketing manager at SEMI.

Sensera Inc. (ASX: SE1), a provider of MEMS devices and Internet of Things (IoT) solution provider that delivers sensor-based products transforming real-time data into meaningful information, action and value, is pleased to announce it has acquired and qualified additional thin-film processing equipment including a dicing saw, a wafer bonder and an electroplating cell to meet the growing customer demand in this segment.

“We are very pleased to be able to expand our production capabilities, closely aligning ourselves with growing customer demand. This new production equipment substantially broadens our existing tool set and enables greater vertical integration and process control,” said Tim Stucchi, GM/COO of the Sensera MicroDevices Division.

The new dicing saw operates in either fully-automatic or semi-automatic mode for full wafer and custom cuts, featuring a positional accuracy down to 1 μm and a cutting speed of 300 mm/sec. It supports small pieces and allows for custom shaping of silicon, sapphire, Pyrex, quartz, ceramics and metals.

Operating under high vacuum, precisely controlled temperature and high-pressure conditions, the new wafer bonder facilitates extremely demanding applications. Eutectic, thermal compressive, adhesive and anodic bonding processes with a wafer alignment accuracy of 2 μm have been smoothly integrated into Sensera’s qualified processes, thus enabling the company to offer many wafer level packaging (WLP) solutions to its current and future customers in multiple applications and market spaces:

    • Microfluidic devices for bio-analysis, medical research and drug development
    • Pressure sensors for human implantable surgical devices
    • Precision accelerometer and gyroscope devices for geo-positioning
    Micro-mirror devices for laser based Automotive self-driving applications

The wafer bond chamber is configurable to process small coupons (from ~10 mm2) and wafer diameters from 25 mm (1”) up to 200 mm (8″).

The electroplating cell is able to plate and electroform wafers or discreet parts up to a size of 200 mm (8″). Typical applications include MEMS, Integrated Circuits (IC) on silicon, gallium arsenide and similar glass-type substrates. Sensera’s qualified processes achieve exceptionally low residual stress and enable tight thickness uniformity control.

“To drive down cycle times, improve quality control and reduce costs, our fab requires ongoing capability upgrades,” stated Ralph Schmitt, CEO of Sensera Inc. “Our objective here is to bring previously outsourced processes back in-house and to expand our internal capability to develop and produce complex MEMS products and solutions. The new dicer, bonder and electroplating cell are just some of the essential steps required to enable innovative development programs and commercial volume customer shipments.”

Spectrometers — devices that distinguish different wavelengths of light and are used to determine the chemical composition of everything from laboratory materials to distant stars — are large devices with six-figure price tags, and tend to be found in large university and industry labs or observatories.

A collection of mini-spectrometer chips are arrayed on a tray after being made through conventional chip-making processes. Credit: Felice Frankel

A new advance by researchers at MIT could make it possible to produce tiny spectrometers that are just as accurate and powerful but could be mass produced using standard chip-making processes. This approach could open up new uses for spectrometry that previously would have been physically and financially impossible.

The invention is described today in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper by MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering Juejun Hu, doctoral student Derek Kita, research assistant Brando Miranda, and five others.

The researchers say this new approach to making spectrometers on a chip could provide major advantages in performance, size, weight, and power consumption, compared to current instruments.

Other groups have tried to make chip-based spectrometers, but there is a built-in challenge: A device’s ability to spread out light based on its wavelength, using any conventional optical system, is highly dependent on the device’s size. “If you make it smaller, the performance degrades,” Hu says.

Another type of spectrometer uses a mathematical approach called a Fourier transform. But these devices are still limited by the same size constraint — long optical paths are essential to attaining high performance. Since high-performance devices require long, tunable optical path lengths, miniaturized spectrometers have traditionally been inferior compared to their benchtop counterparts.

Instead, “we used a different technique,” says Kita. Their system is based on optical switches, which can instantly flip a beam of light between the different optical pathways, which can be of different lengths. These all-electronic optical switches eliminate the need for movable mirrors, which are required in the current versions, and can easily be fabricated using standard chip-making technology.

By eliminating the moving parts, Kita says, “there’s a huge benefit in terms of robustness. You could drop it off the table without causing any damage.”

By using path lengths in power-of-two increments, these lengths can be combined in different ways to replicate an exponential number of discrete lengths, thus leading to a potential spectral resolution that increases exponentially with the number of on-chip optical switches. It’s the same principle that allows a balance scale to accurately measure a broad range of weights by combining just a small number of standard weights.

As a proof of concept, the researchers contracted an industry-standard semiconductor manufacturing service to build a device with six sequential switches, producing 64 spectral channels, with built-in processing capability to control the device and process its output. By expanding to 10 switches, the resolution would jump to 1,024 channels. They designed the device as a plug-and-play unit that could be easily integrated with existing optical networks.

The team also used new machine-learning techniques to reconstruct detailed spectra from a limited number of channels. The method they developed works well to detect both broad and narrow spectral peaks, Kita says. They were able to demonstrate that its performance did indeed match the calculations, and thus opens up a wide range of potential further development for various applications.

The researchers say such spectrometers could find applications in sensing devices, materials analysis systems, optical coherent tomography in medical imaging, and monitoring the performance of optical networks, upon which most of today’s digital networks rely. Already, the team has been contacted by some companies interested in possible uses for such microchip spectrometers, with their promise of huge advantages in size, weight, and power consumption, Kita says. There is also interest in applications for real-time monitoring of industrial processes, Hu adds, as well as for environmental sensing for industries such as oil and gas.

Two leading French and Taiwanese research institutes today announced their new collaboration to facilitate a scientific and technological exchange between France and Taiwan.

Leti, a research institute of CEA Tech in Grenoble, France, and the Taiwanese National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs), two key nanotechnology research providers in their respective countries, will explore opportunities for joint research-and-development projects in high-performance computing and networks, photonics, bio-medical nanotechnologies and brain-computer interface. Their scientists will meet in a series of workshops to initiate joint R&D projects. This agreement also includes access to each other’s unique equipment and platforms, and will offer opportunities to researchers with a specific exchange program.

The agreement was signed by CEA-Leti CEO Emmanuel Sabonnadière and NARLabs President Yeong-Her Wang during the recent Leti Day Taiwan in Hsinchu.

“CEA-Leti and NARLabs have the same goals: to create differentiating technologies and transfer them to industry,” Sabonnadière said. “This cooperation agreement will be the starting point for a strategic research cooperation between our organizations that will strengthen R&D and inspire microelectronics innovation in both Taiwan and France.”

“The National Chip Implementation Center (CIC) and the National Nano Device Laboratories (NDL) of National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) have fostered close ties with CEA-Leti since 2017,” said NARLabs Vice President Wu Kuang-Chong. “Around the Leti Day Taiwan, we held seminars together, and our researchers were able to meet and exchange ideas. Topics included silicon photonics, intelligent image sensors, RF technology, 3D IC+ and device fabrication technology, among others. We believe that with this memorandum of understanding, CEA-Leti and NARLabs will continue to collaborate together to complement and to enlighten each other to formulate innovative research projects.”