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The LED lighting module industry is showing the emergence of innovative functions and the introduction of new market segments including automotive, smart lighting and horticultural markets. In this context, Yole Développement (Yole) estimates the market and presents its vision of the industry in its new technology and market report titled LED Lighting Module Technology Industry & Market.

According to Yole’s Solid State Lighting team, the LED lighting module market, including flexible LED strips, reached nearly US$4 billion in 2016 and will grow to US$13.8 billion by 2022.

“LED technology is increasingly penetrating general lighting applications, thanks to how easily integrators can use it,” announced Pierrick Boulay, Technology & Market Analyst, Solid-State Lighting at Yole. “The LED lighting module market will therefore deliver a 22.6% CAGR between 2017 and 2022.”

Yole’s report provides a comprehensive overview of the LED lighting modules including technologies, markets and applications, main functions and integration into lighting systems. The company propose a deep analysis of the positioning of each module type, including mid-power, high-power, COB and flexible strip and the main technologies in use. Industry structure, future trends and market data are also analyzed in this report.

General lighting is not a ‘blue ocean market’ any more, due to strong price pressure and intense competition between LED players. Therefore, LED module manufacturers are seeking growth engines, following the example provided by the packaged LED industry a few years ago.
Therefore, LED companies are diversifying their activities and looking for market opportunities. These emerging market segments include horticultural lighting, automotive lighting and smart lighting, and are going beyond visible light into the IR or UV parts of the spectrum. All of these applications are attractive by showing much higher margins, compared to general lighting ones.
The modules used in these applications require a high level of expertise, a strong industrial knowledge and technical skill. LED module manufacturers targeting these new applications are betting integrators will not have the competencies needed. In addition, high market demand will help them move higher in the value chain.

“A good example is Everlight,” commented Pierrick Boulay, from Yole. “Initially positioned as a light source supplier, it then started developing COB technology. It is now seeking to enter the automotive lighting business, positioning itself as an advanced module supplier.”

In parallel, beyond visible light, UV and IR LED modules are increasingly used, pushed by rapidly growing applications like UV curing and IR surveillance cameras. Large numbers of LEDs is used in each module, and thermal management is crucial for performance, especially for UV applications

Driven by mid-power modules, this industry will treble in the next five years (in value). Therefore, mid-power LEDs can be used in almost all applications. In 2016, the mid-power LED modules are driving the market, providing 60% of market revenues. In parallel, high-power LEDs are used only in applications requiring high luminous flux in a small module. As a result, the number of applications using high power LED modules is limited and represents only 7% of market (in revenues).
COB LED modules provide a compromise on size, LES area, luminous flux and power consumption. COB LED modules are therefore dedicated to many applications, and lead the total LED module market in volumes shipped. However, as these modules are relatively easy to manufacture in few steps, the associated ASP is low. Consequently, COB LED modules represent only 20% of market revenue.

In parallel, flexible LED strips can be directly used as LED lighting systems, mostly in indirect lighting applications. These modules are the ability to be easily implemented for residential and commercial lighting. Recent developments, like using LED chips instead of packaged LEDs on a flexible substrate, allow much higher efficiency, opening doors to new applications such as linear lighting.

Yole’s analysts offer you today a comprehensive technology and market analysis dedicated to the LED lighting module industry. A detailed description of this report is available on i-micronews.com, LED reports section.

Yole is also part of the LED Professional Symposium (LpS 2017) program with a relevant presentation on “2017 LED Industry Update: Highlights and Future trends” led by Pars Mukish, Solid-State Lighting Business Unit Manager at Yole. This presentation will be available soon on i-micronews.com in the dedicated section.

Seoul Semiconductor Co., Ltd. announced on Sept. 19, 2017 that it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit, together with its affiliate, Seoul Viosys Co., Ltd., against Archipelago Lighting, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

In its complaint, Seoul asserts that Archipelago Lighting is selling various LED bulb products, including filament LED bulbs, that infringe on “twelve” (12) patents covering aspects of Seoul’s long-established Acrich technology. These Acrich patents include fundamental LED technologies, such as LED driver technology for high-voltage operation, MJT (Multi-Junction Technology), filament LED bulb structure, LED packaging, LED epitaxial growth, LED chip fabrication, etc.

In conventional LED products, one LED unit usually operates at a low voltage (3V) and high current. In order to increase brightness, one must connect many LED units through wire-bonding, but this can lead to other issues, such as an oversized, costly operating circuit, a substantial increase in manufacturing costs and defects caused by multiple wire-bonding connections.

Seoul’s Acrich technology resolves such problems by enabling the design of a high-voltage product with a high power output that relies on only a small number of LED units. Acrich technology does so by utilizing its innovative LED driver technology to enable high-voltage operation, as well as its unique MJT technology for mounting and integrating many LEDs within a small area. Seoul’s Acrich technology enables LED products to operate using AC power without requiring conversion to DC, minimizing power dissipation and reducing overall component count. This maximizes the available space in LED products, facilitating a simple circuit design and significantly reducing the size and cost of LED products. Acrich technology has become widely adopted for general lighting, as well as electronic products, including televisions.

For example, in the general lighting market, 12V/18V high-voltage products have become increasingly popular, and there has been a significant increase in the demand for 36V/48V products. To manufacture such high-voltage products, Acrich technology is necessary to support LED driver technology for high-voltage operations with MJT technology. The innovative benefits of Acrich technology have resulted in its being applied in street lights and commercial lights in countries throughout the world, including locations as diverse as Korea, the United States, China, Europe, Southeast Asia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

In electronic products, Acrich technology is being increasingly used for valuable product lines such as large-area television displays. Acrich technology enables a dramatic enhancement in the service life and efficiency of such displays by simplifying their internal system. It also dramatically reduces the size and thickness of the final product, rendering it more pleasing to consumers, by reducing the amount of internal space previously reserved for complicated electric circuits. In particular, Acrich enables full-array local dimming that enhances the contrast range of the latest ultra-thin UHD display products by providing the next generation of backlighting solutions for high-definition displays.

Acrich technology is also expanding its application to other product areas that require high LED light output, such as landscape lighting, vehicle headlamps and daylight running lamps as well as mobile phone flash units.

Seoul began to develop its unique Acrich technology in the mid-1990s and has continued to launch advanced, innovative Acrich products every year following its successful volume production in 2005. Based on its decades of investment in research and development, Seoul has established a large patent portfolio for Acrich technology, including rights to approximately 1,000 Acrich patents. However, with the recent increase in the demand for high-voltage LED products, several companies have begun to manufacture products that infringe on Seoul’s Acrich patents. In order to protect its hard-earned investment against such infringement, Seoul will actively enforce its patent rights against any infringers.

Dr. Ki-bum Nam, head of Seoul’s R&D Center and chief technology officer said, “We have extensively investigated copycat products infringing on Acrich technology with various LED TVs, general lighting and automotive lighting products. In order to protect Acrich technology, which has been developed with considerable resources over many decades, we will continuously take any and all legal action against infringers that disregard our valuable intellectual property.” Nam added: “Creating a fair market that respects intellectual property is important for all innovative entrepreneurs and businesses.”

The latest update to the World Fab Forecast report, published on September 5, 2017 by SEMI, again reveals record spending for fab equipment. Out of the 296 Front End facilities and lines tracked by SEMI, the report shows 30 facilities and lines with over $500 million in fab equipment spending.  2017 fab equipment spending (new and refurbished) is expected to increase by 37 percent, reaching a new annual spending record of about US$55 billion. The SEMI World Fab Forecast also forecasts that in 2018, fab equipment spending will increase even more, another 5 percent, for another record high of about $58 billion. The last record spending was in 2011 with about $40 billion. The spending in 2017 is now expected to top that by about $15 billion.

fab equipment spending

Figure 1: Fab equipment spending (new and refurbished) for Front End facilities

Examining 2017 spending by region, SEMI reports that the largest equipment spending region is Korea, which increases to about $19.5 billion in spending for 2017 from the $8.5 billion reported in 2016. This represents 130 percent growth year-over-year. In 2018, the World Fab Forecast report predicts that Korea will remain the largest spending region, while China will move up to second place with $12.5 billion (66 percent growth YoY) in equipment spending. Double-digit growth is also projected for Americas, Japan, and Europe/Mideast, while other regions growth is projected to remain below 10 percent.

The World Fab Forecast report estimates that Samsung is expected to more than double its fab equipment spending in 2017, to $16-$17 billion for Front End equipment, with another $15 billion in spending for 2018. Other memory companies are also forecast to make major spending increases, accounting for a total of $30 billion in memory-related spending for the year. Other market segments, such as Foundry ($17.8 billion), MPU ($3 billion), Logic ($1.8 billion), and Discrete with Power and LED ($1.8 billion), will also invest huge amounts on equipment. These same product segments also dominate spending into 2018.

In both 2017 and 2018, Samsung will drive the largest level in fab spending the industry has ever seen. While a single company can dominate spending trends, SEMI’s World Fab Forecast report also shows that a single region, China, can surge ahead and significantly impact spending. Worldwide, the World Fab Forecast tracks 62 active construction projects in 2017 and 42 projects for 2018, with many of these in China.

For insight into semiconductor manufacturing in 2017 and 2018 with more details about capex for construction projects, fab equipping, technology levels, and products, visit the SEMI Fab Database webpage (www.semi.org/en/MarketInfo/FabDatabase) and order the SEMI World Fab Forecast Report. The report, in Excel format, tracks spending and capacities for over 1,200 facilities including over 80 future facilities, across industry segments from Analog, Power, Logic, MPU, Memory, and Foundry to MEMS and LEDs facilities.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), representing U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing, design, and research, today announced worldwide sales of semiconductors reached $33.6 billion for the month of July 2017, an increase of 24.0 percent compared to the July 2016 total of $27.1 billion and 3.1 percent more than the June 2017 total of $32.6 billion. All major regional markets posted both year-to-year and month-to-month increases in July, and the Americas market led the way with growth of 36.1 percent year-to-year and 5.4 percent month-to-month. All monthly sales numbers are compiled by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization and represent a three-month moving average.

“Worldwide semiconductor sales increased on a year-to-year basis for the twelfth consecutive month in July, reflecting impressive and sustained growth for the global semiconductor market,” said John Neuffer, president and CEO, Semiconductor Industry Association. “Sales in July increased throughout every major regional market and semiconductor product category, demonstrating the breadth of the global market’s recent upswing, and the industry is on track for another record sales total in 2017.”

Year-to-year sales increased in the Americas (36.1 percent), China (24.1 percent), Asia Pacific/All Other (20.5 percent), Europe (18.9 percent), and Japan (16.7 percent). Month-to-month sales increased in the Americas (5.4 percent), Asia Pacific/All Other (2.8 percent), China (2.7 percent), Japan (2.1 percent), and Europe (1.2 percent).

To find out how to purchase the WSTS Subscription Package, which includes comprehensive monthly semiconductor sales data and detailed WSTS Forecasts, please visit http://www.semiconductors.org/industry_statistics/wsts_subscription_package/. For detailed data on the global and U.S. semiconductor industry and market, consider purchasing the 2017 SIA Databook: https://www.semiconductors.org/forms/sia_databook/.

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In a depressed visible LED industry, manufacturers are looking at new opportunities to increase their revenues and margins. In this context, the IR LED market is perceived as a potential new ‘blue ocean’ with attractive opportunities for those players.

While LEDs are important, VCSEL technology is the hot topic. “IR LEDs represented around 65% of the IR light source market in 2016, but this figure is likely to decrease to 45% in 2022,” commented Pierrick Boulay, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole). Development of 3D cameras and autofocus applications, associated with the sensor fusion trend in smartphones and automotive, will strongly drive growth of the IR VCSEL market in the future (1).

All these topics will be discussed during the First Executive Forum on Laser Technologies created by Yole’s analysts, in collaboration with CIOE. Taking place on September 6&7 in Shenzhen, China, the Forum proposes an impressive agenda composed of 4 sessions, 19 presentations, debates and networking. All along the Forum, industrial experts will debate about the latest innovations, market trends and business opportunities. They will make a special focus on laser manufacturing and analyze the emerging applications. The agenda is now available: LASER FORUM AGENDA.

What are the technologies perspectives? What are the latest advances in semiconductor manufacturing? What will be the next applications? Innovation enables the identification of new business opportunities. It has further accelerated the adoption of laser solutions in many areas.

ir light sources

IR VCSEL represents a good compromise between traditional laser diodes, providing coherent and directional light, and IR LEDs, offering lower manufacturing cost and ease of integration. Additionally, IR VCSELs allow new sensing approaches, such as ToF . In this context, the IR VCSEL industry will be at the center of the attention and should experience strong growth in coming years. It is also likely that some players will work on both IR LEDs and lasers to maximize their revenues.

“Opportunities for both technologies will also be dependent on developments to overcome current limitations, towards longer wavelengths, higher performance, multi-spectral functionality and lower cost,” analyzed Yole’s expert, Pierrick Boulay. Typically, most current IR LEDs are in the 850nm or 940nm range. To enable emerging applications such as gas sensors or portable/integrated spectroscopy systems, longer wavelengths will be mandatory. In addition, integration of these light sources into sensors and modules will also be part of the challenge to be handled by the photonics industry.

Pierrick Boulay from Yole is one of the key speaker of the Emerging Applications session in the First Executive Forum on Laser Technologies agenda. Based on his strong expertise on LED lighting (general lighting, automotive lighting…) and OLED lighting, Pierrick proposes a relevant presentation, titled “IR laser: At the heart of the industry in coming years”. He will highlight the status of laser technologies and emerging applications including 3D camera, LIDAR, proximity sensors… This session also welcome other experts of the industry:
•  Rainer Paetzel, Director of Marketing, Coherent
•  Steven Hsieh, Senior Industry Analyst, ITRI
•  Hans van der Tang, Director Sales & Marketing – APAC Region, ElectroniCast Consultants

First Executive Forum’s program is also offering several networking times to discuss with industrial leaders and identify business opportunities… Discover the agenda and register today: LASER FORUM REGISTRATION 

The III-N semiconductor family has attracted significant research attention over the last 25 years, resulting in intensive patenting activity, with a substantial increase during the past decade. More than 80,000 patents and patent applications related to III-N technology have been published worldwide since the early 1990s, announce KnowMade’s analysts. In such a dynamic III-N market, it is essential to understand the technology challenges and the market needs as well as to track related patents. Therefore, industrial companies need to anticipate changes, quickly detect business opportunities, mitigate risks, and make strategic decisions.

KnowMade, System Plus Consulting and Yole Développement, all part of Yole Group of Companies combine their expertise to develop relevant services and high-added value reports dedicated to the III-N technology. Based on technology changes, market evolution and IP strategy, the group is covering the overall GaN industry from LED, diode and laser to RF applications as well as other III-N materials. What is the status of the III-N semiconductor field? Yole Group of Companies proposes an overview of this industry.


The Technology Intelligence & IP strategy consulting company, KnowMade presents today a new service to follow the industry evolution and get a comprehensive understanding of the technical challenges and company’s market positioning through an IP approach. III-N Patent Watch service is monthly updates dedicated to the III-N related patents. With a useful Excel database presenting the latest patent applications, newly granted patents, expired or abandoned, patent transfers and patent litigation and more, the Patent Watch service is a powerful tool of strategic analysis to track competitors, partners and customers and identify new entrants. Patent Watch also allows companies to identify business opportunities as well as analyze the risks for business development.

Under this service, the technology intelligence and IP strategy consulting company is tracking the IP of more than 100 players involved in the III-N sector. The take-off of patenting activity took place in the 2000s with a first wave of patent publications. A second wave started in 2010 while first commercial GaN products, collaborations, mergers, and acquisitions emerged… III-N Patent Watch service from KnowMade help the companies to get a clear view of the market evolution, understand the IP strategies, and anticipate the industry changes and much more.

In parallel, System Plus Consulting and Yole Développement are strongly involved in the GaN industry, representing the biggest market of the III-N semiconductor materials family. Both companies propose a huge collection of reverse engineering and costing analyses and technical and market reports to highlight the technology innovations, markets adoption and give a quantification of these markets. According to Yole Développement, the global GaN market including LED, RF, Power and laser, was estimated to be worth US$16 Billion in 2016 and should reach US$20 Billion by 2020 at a 5% CAGR between 2016 and 2020. Indeed the overall GaN industry is today mainly boosted by newly emerging markets.

A major bottleneck in the commercialization of Micro LED displays is the mass transfer of micron-size LEDs to a display backplane. Research by LEDinside, a division of TrendForce, reveals that many companies across industries worldwide have entered the Micro LED market and are in a race to develop methods for the mass transfer process. However, their solutions have yet to meet the standard for commercialization in terms of production output (in unit per hour, UPH), transfer yield and size of LED chips (i.e. Micro LED is technically defined as LEDs that are smaller than 100 microns). These research findings can be found in LEDinside’s 3Q17 Micro LED Next Generation Display Industry Member Report: Analyses on Mass Transfer and Inspection/Repair Technologies.

Currently, entrants in the Micro LED market are working towards the mass transfer of LEDs sized around 150 microns. LEDinside anticipates that displays and projection modules featuring 150-micron LEDs will be available on the market as early as 2018. When the mass transfer for LEDs of this size matures, market entrants will then invest in processes for making smaller products.

Development of mass transfer solutions faces seven major challenges

“Mass transfer is one of the four main stages in the manufacturing of Micro LED displays and has many highly difficult technological challenges,” said Simon Yang, assistant research manager of LEDinside. Yang pointed out that developing a cost-effective mass transfer solution depends on advances in seven key areas: precision of the equipment, transfer yield, manufacturing time, manufacturing technology, inspection method, rework and processing cost.

LED suppliers, semiconductor makers and companies across the display supply chain will have to work together to develop specification standards for materials, chips and fabrication equipment used in Micro LED production. Cross-industry collaboration is necessary since each industry has its own specification standards. Also, an extended period of R&D is needed to overcome the technological hurdles and integrate various fields of manufacturing.

Mass transfer has to achieve five-sigma level before mass production of Micro LED displays is feasible

Using Six Sigma as the model for determining the feasibility of mass production of Micro LED displays, LEDinside’s analysis indicates that the yield of the mass transfer process must reach the four-sigma level to make commercialization possible. However, the processing cost and the costs related to inspection and defect repair are still quite high even at the four-sigma level. To have commercially mature products with competitive processing cost available for market release, the mass transfer process has to reach the five-sigma level or above in transfer yield.

As progress on mass transfer solutions continues, true Micro LED products are expected to first enter applications such as indoor displays and wearables

Even though no major breakthroughs have been announced, many technology companies and research agencies worldwide continue to invest in the R&D of mass transfer process. Some of the well-known international enterprises and institutions working in this area are LuxVue, eLux, VueReal, X-Celeprint, CEA-Leti, SONY and OKI. Comparable Taiwan-based companies and organizations include PlayNitride, Industrial Technology Research Institute, Mikro Mesa and TSMC.

There are several types of mass transfer solutions under development. Choosing one of them will depend on various factors such as application markets, equipment capital, UPH and processing cost. Additionally, the expansion of manufacturing capacity and the raising of the yield rate are important to product development.

According to the latest developments, LEDinside believes that the markets for wearables (e.g. smartwatches and smart bracelets) and large indoor displays will first see Micro LED products (LEDs sized under 100 microns). Because mass transfer is technologically challenging, market entrants will initially use the existing wafer bonding equipment to build their solutions. Furthermore, each display application has its own pixel volume specifications, so market entrants will likely focus on products with low pixel volume requirements as to shorten the product development cycle.

Thin film transfer is another away of moving and arranging micron-size LEDs, and some market entrants are making a direct jump to developing solutions under this approach. However, perfecting thin film transfer will take longer time and more resources because equipment for this method will have to be designed, built and calibrated. Such an undertaking will also involve difficult manufacturing related issues.

By Pete Singer

Luc Van den Hove, president and CEO of imec

Luc Van den Hove, president and CEO of imec

Speaking at imec’s International Technology Forum USA yesterday afternoon at the Marriott Marquis, Luc Van den Hove, president and CEO of imec, provided a glimpse of society’s future and explained how semiconductor technology will play a key role. From everything the IoT to early diagnosis of cancer through cell sorters, liquid biopsies and high-performance sequencing, technology will enable “endless complexity increase,” he said.

Other developments, almost all of which are being worked on at imec, include self-learning neuromorphic chips, brain implants, artificial intelligence, 5G, IoT and sensors, augmented and virtual reality, high resolution (5000 ppi) OLED displays, EOG based eye tracking and haptic feedback devices. He also acknowledged the critical importance of security issues, but suggested a solution. He noted that each chip has its own fingerprint due to nanoscale variability. That’s been a problem for the industry but we could “turn this limitation into an advantage,” he said, with an approach called PUFs — Physical Unclonable Functions (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Nanoscale variability has been a problem for the industry but we could be turned into an advantage with PUFs -- Physical Unclonable Functions.

Figure 1. Nanoscale variability has been a problem for the industry but we could be turned into an advantage with PUFs — Physical Unclonable Functions.

At the forum, imec also announced that its researchers, in collaboration with scientists from KU Leuven in Belgium and Pisa University in Italy, have performed the first material-device-circuit level co-optimization of field-effect transistors (FETs) based on 2D materials for high-performance logic applications scaled beyond the 10nm technology node. Imec also presented novel designs that would allow using mono-layer 2D materials to enable Moore’s law even below 5nm gate length. Additionally, imec announced that it demonstrated an electrically functional 5nm solution for Back-End-of-Line interconnects.

FETs based on 2D materials

2D materials, a family of materials that form two-dimensional crystals, may be used to create the ultimate transistor with a channel thickness down to the level of single atoms and gate length of few nanometers. A key driver that allowed the industry to follow Moore’s Law and continue producing ever more powerful chips was the continued scaling of the gate length. To counter the resulting negative short-channel effects, chip manufacturers have already moved from planar transistors to FinFETs. They are now introducing other transistor architectures such as nanowire FETs. The work reported by imec looks further, replacing the transistor channel material, with 2D materials as some of the prime candidates.

Figure 2. 2D materials, with the atomically-precise dimension control they enable, promise to become key materials for future innovations.

Figure 2. 2D materials, with the atomically-precise dimension control they enable, promise to become key materials for future innovations.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, the imec scientists and their colleagues presented guidelines on how to choose materials, design the devices and optimize performance to arrive at circuits that meet the requirements for sub-10nm high-performance logic chips. Their findings demonstrate the need to use 2D materials with anisotropicity and a smaller effective mass in the transport direction. Using one such material, monolayer black-phosphorus, the researchers presented novel device designs that pave the way to even further extend Moore’s law into the sub-5nm gate length. These designs reveal that for sub-5nm gate lengths, 2D electrostatics arising from gate stack design become more of a challenge than direct source-to-drain tunneling. These results are very encouraging, because in the case of 3D semiconductors, such as Si, scaling gate length so aggressively is practically impossible.

“2D materials, with the atomically-precise dimension control they enable, promise to become key materials for future innovations. With advancing R&D, we see opportunities emerging in domains such as photonics, optoelectronics, (bio)sensing, energy storage, photovoltaics, and also transistor scaling. Many of these concepts have already been demonstrated in the labs,” says Iuliana Radu, distinguished member of technical staff at imec. “Our latest results presented in Scientific Reports, show how 2D materials could be used to scale FETs for very advanced technology nodes.”

5nm Solution for BEOL

The announced electrically functional solution for 5nm back-end-of-line (BEOL) is a full dual-damascene module in combination with multi-patterning and multi-blocking. Scaling boosters and aggressive design rules pave the way to even smaller dimensions.

As R&D progresses towards the 5nm technology node, the tiny Cu wiring schemes in the chips’ BEOL are becoming more complex and compact. Shrinking the dimensions also reduces the wires cross-sectional area, driving up the resistance-capacitance product (RC) of the interconnect systems and thus increasing signal delay. To overcome the RC delay challenge and enable further improvements in interconnect performance, imec explores new materials, process modules and design solutions for future chip generations.

One viable option is to extend the Cu-based dual-damascene technology – the current workhorse process flow for interconnects – into the next technology nodes. Imec has demonstrated that the 5nm BEOL can be realized with a full dual-damascene module using multi-patterning solutions. With this flow, trenches are created with critical dimensions of 12nm at 16nm. Metal-cuts (or blocks) perpendicular to the trenches are added in order to create electrically functional lines and then the trenches are filled with metal. Area scaling is further pushed through the introduction of fully self-aligned vias. Moreover, aggressive design rules are explored to better control the variability of the metal tip-to-tips (T2Ts).

Figure 3. Dense-pitch blocks enabled by a dual damascene flow and multi-patterning. The pattern is etched into the low-k and metallized.

Figure 3. Dense-pitch blocks enabled by a dual damascene flow and multi-patterning. The pattern is etched into the low-k and metallized.

Beyond 5nm, imec is exploring alternative metals that can potentially replace Cu as a conductor. Among the candidates identified, low-resistive Ruthenium (Ru) demonstrated great promise. The imec team has realized Ru nanowires in scaled dimensions, with 58nm2 cross-sectional area, exhibiting a low resistivity, robust wafer-level reliability, and oxidation resistance – eliminating the need for a diffusion barrier.

“The emergence of RC delay issues started several technology nodes ago, and has become increasingly more challenging at each node. Through innovations in materials and process schemes, new BEOL architectures and system/technology co-optimization, we can overcome this challenge as far as the 5nm node”, said Zsolt Tokei, imec’s director of the nano-interconnect program. “Imec and its partners have shown attainable options for high density area scaled logic blocks for future nodes, which will drive the supplier community for future needs.”

For the longer term, imec is investigating different options including but not limited to alternative metals, insertion of self-assembled monolayers or alternative signaling techniques such as low-energy spin-wave propagation in magnetic waveguides, exploiting the electron’s spin to transport the signal. For example, the researchers have experimentally shown that spin waves can travel over several micrometers, the distance required by short and medium interconnects in equivalent spintronic circuits.

Renewed investigation of a molecule that was originally synthesized with the goal of creating a unique light-absorbing pigment has led to the establishment of a novel design strategy for efficient light-emitting molecules with applications in next-generation displays and lighting.

Researchers at Kyushu University’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics Research (OPERA) demonstrated that a molecule that slightly changes its chemical structure before and after emission can achieve a high efficiency in organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs).

In addition to producing vibrant colors, OLEDs can be fabricated into everything from tiny pixels to large and flexible panels, making them extremely attractive for displays and lighting.

In an OLED, electrical charges injected into thin films of organic molecules come together to form packets of energy – called excitons – that can produce light emission.

The goal is to convert all of the excitons to light, but three-fourths of the created excitons are triplets, which do not produce light in conventional materials, while the remaining one-fourth are singlets, which emit through a process called fluorescence.

Inclusion of a rare metal, such as iridium or platinum, in a molecule can enable rapid emission from the triplets through phosphorescence, which is currently the dominant technology for highly efficient OLEDs.

An alternative mechanism is the use of heat in the environment to give triplets an energetic boost that is sufficient to convert them into light-emitting singlets.

This process, known as thermally activated delayed fluorescence (TADF), easily occurs at room temperature in appropriately designed molecules and has the added advantage of avoiding the cost and reduced molecular design freedom associated with rare metals.

However, most TADF molecules still rely on the same basic design approach.

“Many new TADF molecules are being reported each month, but we keep seeing the same underlying design with electron-donating groups connected to electron-accepting groups,” says Masashi Mamada, lead researcher on the study reporting the new results.

“Finding fundamentally different molecular designs that also exhibit efficient TADF is a key to unlocking new properties, and in this case, we found one by looking at the past with a new perspective.”

Currently, combinations of donating and accepting units are primarily used because they provide a relatively simple way to push around the electrons in a molecule and obtain the conditions needed for TADF.

Although the method is effective and a huge variety of combinations is possible, new strategies are still desired in the quest to find perfect or unique emitters.

The mechanism explored by the researchers this time involves the reversible transfer of a hydrogen atom – technically, just its positive nucleus – from one atom in the emitting molecule to another in the same molecule to create an arrangement conducive to TADF.

This transfer occurs spontaneously when the molecule is excited with optical or electrical energy and is known as excited-state intramolecular proton transfer (ESIPT).

This ESIPT process is so important in the investigated molecules that quantum chemical calculations by the researchers indicate that TADF is not possible before transfer of the hydrogen.

After excitation, the hydrogen rapidly transfers to a different atom in the molecule, leading to a molecular structure capable of TADF.

The hydrogen transfers back to its initial atom after the molecule emits light, and the molecule is then ready to repeat the process.

Although TADF from an ESIPT molecule has been reported previously, this is the first demonstration of highly efficient TADF observed inside and outside of a device.

This vastly different design strategy opens the door for achieving TADF with a variety of new chemical structures that would not have been considered based on previous strategies.

Interestingly, the molecule the researchers used was most likely a disappointment when first synthesized nearly 20 years ago by chemists hoping to create a new pigment only to discover that the molecule is colorless.

“Organic molecules never cease to amaze me,” says Professor Chihaya Adachi, Director of OPERA. “Many paths with different advantages and disadvantages exist for achieving the same goal, and we have still only scratched the surface of what is possible.”

The advantages of this design strategy are just beginning to be explored, but one particularly promising area is related to stability.

Molecules similar to the investigated one are known to be highly resistant to degradation, so researchers hope that these kinds of molecules might help to improve the lifetime of OLEDs.

To see if this is the case, tests are now underway.

While only time will tell how far this particular strategy will go, the continually growing options for OLED emitters certainly bode well for their future.

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. today announced that it has begun mass producing a new mid-power LED package, the LM301B, which features the industry’s highest luminous efficacy of 220 lumens per watt. The package is well suited for a range of LED lighting applications including ambient lighting, downlights and most retrofit lamps.

Samsung was able to achieve its industry-leading efficacy (@ 65mA, 5000K, CRI 80+) by incorporating an advanced flip-chip package design and state-of-the-art phosphor technology. The LM301B’s flip-chip design uses a highly reflective layer-formation technology to enhance light efficacy at the chip level. Also, a complete separation between its red phosphor film and green phosphors allows minimal interference during the phosphor conversion process, resulting in higher efficacy than conventional phosphor structures. These combined technology enhancements enable a 10-percent increase in overall efficacy compared to competing 3030 platform packages, without compromising on premium-quality light output.

“With our LM301B, we are able to deliver even greater mid-power value and help lower the total cost of ownership for LED lighting manufacturers,” said Jacob Tarn, Executive Vice President of LED Business Team at Samsung Electronics. “Thanks to advancements like the LM301B, Samsung will continue to drive innovation in next-generation LED technologies.”

Samples of the LM301B are available now.