Tag Archives: letter-power-tech

Ziptronix Inc. today announced that its Direct Bond Interconnect (DBI) hybrid bonding has been implemented by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) to improve the performance of high-end 3D sensor arrays, which are used for particle detection in large-scale particle physics and x-ray imaging experiments. This is an example of three-layer DBI hybrid bonding in a 3D imaging chip, using DBI wafer-to-wafer and die-to-wafer processes.

The demonstrator, a vertically integrated x-ray photon imaging chip (VIPIC) detector, was developed by a collaboration of scientists and engineers from Fermilab, Brookhaven National Laboratory and AGH University from Poland. DBI hybrid bonding technology enables versatile new designs for pixelated radiation detectors. Fermilab and Brookhaven are national laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Implementing DBI hybrid bonding enables us to design sophisticated combinations of sensors and readout electronics,” said Ron Lipton, Staff Scientist, Fermilab. “By enabling vertical signals through stacked sensor, readout and processing layers, we can design large-scale arrays that are side-edge buttable with high fill factor.”

The process flow for manufacturing the VIPIC involves using wafer-to-wafer DBI hybrid bonding to bond two ASIC wafers containing through silicon vias (TSVs). The bonded wafer pair is thinned to expose the TSVs on one side, then singulated. The singulated die stacks are then bonded to an x-ray sensor wafer using die-to-wafer DBI hybrid bonding. Subsequent thinning of the other side of the bonded wafer pair allows backside connections to the 3-layer assembly.

“This is an advanced three-layer imaging chip manufactured using DBI hybrid bonding,” said Paul Enquist, CTO, Ziptronix. “Electrical data shows that this approach achieves lower noise, higher bandwidth and higher gain due to lower capacitive load when compared with parts stacked using bumping. This increases the sensitivity of the 3D image sensors, making them ideal for use in high-end applications.”

DBI hybrid bonding is a conductor/dielectric bonding technology that includes a variety of metal/oxide/nitride combinations, uses no adhesives and is CMOS foundry compatible. It allows for stronger bonds and finer-pitch interconnect over traditional thermocompression bonding since bonding occurs at both the conductive and dielectric materials, versus just the conductor. Bonding therefore takes place over the entire surface area, eliminating the need for underfill as well as significantly reducing the overall height of the structure.

Cree, Inc. has announced that its C2M, 1200V, 80mOhm SiC MOSFETs have been selected by Sanix Corporation, Japan, to be designed into their new 9.9kW three-phase solar inverters for use in the construction of commercial photovoltaic systems in the fast-growing Japanese solar energy market.

“Through this partnership with Cree and their SiC technology, Sanix is able to capture more market share in the competitive Japan solar market,” said Hiroshi Soga, general manager, Sanix Incorporated. “Cree’s silicon carbide MOSFETs were critical for Sanix to meet our efficiency and thermal design targets. SiC switches reduced losses in our inverter electronics by more than 30 percent versus the silicon super-junction MOSFETs we were considering. In addition to providing a large efficiency gain, Cree’s latest generation C2M SiC MOSFETs were priced competitively, making it possible to replace lower voltage, less rugged, and less efficient silicon MOSFETs.”

Utilized in the primary power conversion stage of the solar inverter, Cree’s 1200V C2M0080120D MOSFETs feature faster switching characteristics and up to one-third the switching losses of comparably-rated 900V silicon super-junction MOSFETs. By significantly reducing switching losses, Cree’s SiC MOSFETs enable lower total system energy losses, higher frequency switching, and cooler operating temperatures. These benefits improve conversion efficiency and reduce the system’s size, weight, complexity, and thermal management requirements. At the system level, performance is improved, cost is decreased, and lifetime of the inverter is extended.

“Cree is extremely pleased that Sanix has chosen to specify our C2M, 1200V SiC MOSFET technology in its new 9.9kW solar inverters. Cree SiC power devices can provide significant advantages with regard to PV inverter efficiency, reliability, and cost, and will provide Sanix with a critical competitive advantage as they continue to expand their share of the Japanese solar market,” said Cengiz Balkas, general manager and vice president, Cree Power and RF.

Demonstrated to achieve up to three times the power density of typical silicon technology, Cree’s C2M family of SiC MOSFETs are available in 1200V and 1700V, ranging from 1Ω to 25 mΩ. C2M MOSFETs have been designed into a range of industrial power applications since their March 2013 market introduction and continue to experience increasing demand. Cree is currently delivering production volumes of SiC MOSFETs to Sanix and other PV inverter manufacturers, as well as to makers of industrial power supplies, auxiliary power converters, battery chargers, and motor drives.

TowerJazz, the global specialty foundry, and Triune Systems LLC, a mixed signal and power management IC provider, today announced that Triune has developed a proprietary isolated power and data technology using the TowerJazz TS18PM process on its 0.18um based power management platform. This technology is showcased in Triune’s Neo-Iso products, two isolated load switches currently ramping to volume production; TS13001 and TS13101.

According to a report published by Transparency Market Research, the home automation market is expected to reach $16.4 billion by 2019, growing at a CAGR of 24.6% from 2014 to 2019.

Triune’s TS13001 and TS13101 are galvanically isolated load switches that replace mechanical relays in HVAC, home automation, and industrial control systems. The products are low-profile switches with low Rdson, have current limit and fault protection circuitry, and are easily controlled through a simple microcontroller interface. The level of galvanic isolation can be scaled from 100V to 10kV, based on the needs of the system. Device options include both a non-latching TS13001 and latching TS13101 device for replacing most relay applications. These products enable next generation home automation systems that are thin, compact, portable and reliable.

“We developed this unique and innovative isolated technology with TowerJazz because they offered the best process for our needs,” said Ross Teggatz, President of Triune Systems. “Our Neo-Iso technology further leverages TowerJazz’s processes to provide truly unique solutions that can drive exciting and differentiated home automation applications, and we look forward to developing several new products based on this technology.”

“Triune has been a strong partner and we are excited to see innovative products such as the Neo-Iso™ isolated load switches introduced on our power management platform,” said Dr. Marco Racanelli, Senior Vice President of Power Business Group, TowerJazz. “Working with customers like Triune that push performance and innovation boundaries is what helps us bring to market best-in-class process technology. Our latest 0.18um power management platform combines some of the industry’s lowest on-resistance high voltage devices, with 0.18um digital capability and non-volatile memory, serving the consumer, industrial, and automotive markets.”

Renesas Electronics America, a leading supplier of advanced semiconductor solutions, today expands its portfolio of Simple Power Supply ICs, with innovative 16V input capable synchronous buck regulators that deliver up to 3A continuous current to loads at voltages as low as 0.8V. The new power supply ICs are ideal for systems requiring even lower power consumption in standby mode, and systems requiring backup power in case of power outage. The devices target applications in the industrial, office equipment, consumer, networking, smart grid, and other fields.

By reducing the power supply design workload, the new devices lower power consumption and improve the compactness of the overall system for improved power efficiency and lower BOM cost. The new Simple Power Supply ICs are available in four series with different DC/DC converter output counts and output voltages. Battery backup functionality is availability in the: RAA23012X series, RAA23013X series, RAA23022X series, and the RAA23023X series. Each series comprises three product versions, for a total of 12 new devices.

“Power semiconductor advancements have created a dynamic environment for energy saving innovations that boost the efficiency of existing applications, the electrification of more applications, and improve energy transmission,” said William Keeley, senior director product marketing at Renesas Electronics America. “Engineers and designers can confidently look to these types of power devices we are announcing today as a source of opportunity as they design their next generation energy efficient systems and products.”

As systems become more power efficient and compact in recent years, demand has grown for power supply blocks with improved power efficiency delivered in a compact form factor. One commonly used method of reducing power consumption is to incorporate a low-power mode in which only the functions needed in the microcontroller’s (MCU) standby state continues to operate. Unlike MCUs, however, such measures are rarely implemented within the power supply block itself. The common method of using a pair of diodes to implement a battery backup circuit for devices such as SRAM and MCUs, which require power even when the system is powered down, makes it difficult to maintain a compact system. What is more, in systems that require two or more voltages, the usual method is to employ multiple single-output power supply ICs or electronic components, which also presents a barrier to compactness.

A “valley of death” is well-known to entrepreneurs–the lull between government funding for research and industry support for prototypes and products. To confront this problem, in 2013 the National Science Foundation (NSF) created a new program called InTrans to extend the life of the most high-impact NSF-funded research and help great ideas transition from lab to practice.

Today, in partnership with Intel Corporation, NSF announced the first InTrans award of $3 million to a team of researchers who are designing customizable, domain-specific computing technologies for use in healthcare.

The work could lead to less exposure to dangerous radiation during x-rays by speeding up the computing side of medicine. It also could result in patient-specific cancer treatments.

Led by the University of California, Los Angeles, the research team includes experts in computer science and engineering, electrical engineering and medicine from Rice University and Oregon Health and Science University. The team comes mainly from the Center of Domain-Specific Computing (CDSC), which was supported by an NSF Expeditions in Computing Award in 2009.

Expeditions, consisting of five-year, $10 million awards, represent some of the largest investments currently made by NSF’s Computer, Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate.

Today’s InTrans grant extends research efforts funded by the Expedition program with the aim of bringing the new technology to the point where it can be produced at a microchip fabrication plant (or fab) for a mass market.

“We see the InTrans program as an innovative approach to public-private partnership and a way of enhancing research sustainability,” said Farnam Jahanian, head of NSF’s CISE Directorate. “We’re thrilled that Intel and NSF can partner to continue to support the development of domain-specific hardware and to transition this excellent fundamental research into real applications.”

In the project, the researchers looked beyond parallelization (the process of working on a problem with more than one processor at the same time) and instead focused on domain-specific customization, a disruptive technology with the potential to bring orders-of-magnitude improvements to important applications. Domain-specific computing systems work efficiently on specific problems–in this case, medical imaging and DNA sequencing of tumors–or a set of problems with similar features, reducing the time to solution and bringing down costs.

“We tried to create energy-efficient computers that are more like brains,” explained Jason Cong, the director of CDSC, a Chancellor’s Professor of computer science and electrical engineering at UCLA, and the lead on the project.

“We don’t really have a centralized central processing unit in there. If you look at the brain you have one region responsible for speech, another region for motor control, another region for vision. Those are specialized ‘accelerators.’ We want to develop a system architecture of that kind, where each accelerator can deliver a hundred to a thousand times better efficiency than the standard processors.”

The team plans to identify classes of applications that share similar computation kernels, thereby creating hardware that solves a range of common related problems with high efficiency and flexibility. This differs from specialized circuits that are designed to solve a single problem (such as those used in cell phones) or general-purpose processors designed to solve all problems.

“The group laid out a different way of presenting the problem of domain-specific computing, which is: How to determine the common features and support them efficiently?” said Sankar Basu, program officer at NSF. “They developed a framework for domain-specific hardware design that they believe can be applied in many other domains as well.”

The group selected medical imaging and patient specific cancer treatments–two important problems in healthcare–as the test applications upon which to create their design because of healthcare’s significant impact on the national economy and quality of life.

Medical imaging is now used diagnose a multitude of medical problems. However, diagnostic methods like x-ray CT (computed tomography) scanners can expose the body to cumulative radiation, which increases risk to the patient in the long term.

Scientists have developed new medical imaging algorithms that lead to less radiation exposure, but these have been constrained due to a lack of computing power.

Using their customizable heterogeneous platform, Cong and his team were able to make one of the leading CT image reconstruction algorithms a hundred times faster, thereby reducing a subject’s exposure to radiation significantly. They presented their results in May 2014 at the IEEE International Symposium on Field-Programmable Custom Computing Machines.

“The low-dose CT scan allows you to get a similar resolution to the standard CT, but the patient can get several times lower radiation,” said Alex Bui, a professor in the UCLA Radiological Sciences department and a co-lead of the project. “Anything we can do to lower that exposure will have a significant health impact.”

In theory, the technology also exists to determine the specific strain of cancer a patient has through DNA sequencing and to use that information to design a patient-specific treatment. However, it currently takes so long to sequence the DNA that once one determines a tumor’s strain, the cancer has already mutated. With domain-specific hardware, Cong believes rapid diagnoses and targeted treatments will be possible.

“Power- and cost-efficient high-performance computation in these domains will have a significant impact on healthcare in terms of preventive medicine, diagnostic procedures and therapeutic procedures,” said Cong.

“Cancer genomics, in particular, has been hobbled by the lack of open, scalable and efficient approaches to rapidly and accurately align and interpret genome sequence data,” said Paul Spellman, a professor at OHSU, who works on personalized cancer treatment and served as another co-lead on the project.

“The ability to use hardware approaches to dramatically improve these speeds will facilitate the rapid turnarounds in enormous datasets that will be necessary to deliver on precision medicine.”

Down the road, the team will work with Spellman and other physicians at OHSU to test the application of the hardware in a real-world environment.

“Intel excels in creating customizable computing platforms optimized for data-intensive computation,” said Michael C. Mayberry, corporate vice president of Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group and chair of Corporate Research Council. “These researchers are some of the leading lights in the field of domain-specific computing.

“This new effort enables us to maximize the benefits of Intel architecture. For example, we can ensure that Intel Xeon processor features are optimized, in connection with various accelerators, for a specific application domain and across all architectural layers,” Mayberry said. “Life science and healthcare research will undoubtedly benefit from the performance, flexibility, energy efficiency and affordability of this application.”

The InTrans program not only advances important fundamental research and integrates it into industry, it also benefits society by improving medical imaging technologies and cancer treatments, helping to extend lives.

“Not every research project will get to the stage where they’re ready to make a direct impact on industry and on society, but in our case, we’re quite close,” Cong said. “We’re thankful for NSF’s support and are excited about continuing our research under this unique private-public funding model.”

Allegro MicroSystems, LLC announces the release of the next generation series of silicon carbide Schottky barrier diodes. The FMCA series achieves low leakage current and high speed switching at high temperatures and is offered by Allegro and manufactured and developed by Sanken Electric Co., Ltd. in Japan. This new series is targeted at the industrial and computer markets with end applications to include servers and those that require high frequency rectification circuits.

The FMCA series uses the next generation of power semiconductor SiC (silicon carbide) and a 650 V breakdown voltage in a Schottky barrier configuration, making it suitable for continuous current mode PFC circuits. These devices are capable of reducing the power loss that results from the recovery current. The diode’s high-speed switching capability and energy-saving functionality allows for the potential downsizing of equipment.

Several key features of this new series are improved efficiency of the power supply with low recovery loss characteristics of the SiC-SBD, low-resistance with a high-speed switching SiC-MOSFET that realizes a compact and highly efficient power supply and an increased current within high temperature environments to maintain stable switching due to the elimination of thermal runway. The FMCA series is available in a TO-220F package.

The FMCA series is available in a TO-220F package.

By Shannon Davis, Web Editor

Overheard @The ConFab: “I feel the best I’ve felt about semi since 2009.” –Mike Noonen, Silicon Catalyst

Monday’s research and development panel discussion at The ConFab 2014 started on that optimistic note as Moderator Scott Jones of AlixPartners led a discussion on Optimizing R&D Collaboration. Panelists Chris Danely of JP Morgan, Lode Lauwers of imec, Rory McInerney of Intel and Mike Noonen of Silicon Catalyst discussed where the next big growth drivers will come from and the ability of the industry to continue scaling and remain on Moore’s Law through the introduction of new technologies such as EUV, Advanced Packaging and 450mm. The panel also touched on the role startups will play and how increased collaboration can benefit the industry.

Here are highlights from Monday’s discussion.

How do you feel about the semiconductor cycle – is that at a positive point for innovation and small, start-up companies?

Mike Noonen: I feel the best about I’ve felt about semi since 2009. Without a doubt. When you combine that situation that we’re in with a couple driving forces, all of that has fundamental benefits to the semiconductor business at large. You take those mega trends that are not leading edge applications with the challenge of Moore’s Law – those are developing a whole host of innovation. We think this is a great time to think about how to reinvigorate startups – this is the best time to think about innovation.

From left to right: Panelists Chris Danely of JP Morgan, Mike Noonen of Silicon Catalyst, Lode Lauwers of imec, and Rory McInerney of Intel

From left to right: Panelists Chris Danely of JP Morgan, Mike Noonen of Silicon Catalyst, Lode Lauwers of imec, and Rory McInerney of Intel

Consolidation is a big theme right now. Is this something that’s holding us back the industry?

Rory McInerney: I don’t think the industry is consolidating for us as much as we think. The big players are still HP, Lenovo, etc. The new players are Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. – many didn’t exist 10 years ago. Within our world, there’s the traditional space, but there’s a ton of new stuff in the cloud and server segment.

Tell us some of the most exciting areas Intel is participating in.

Rory McInerney: On the data center side, we do want our 10 and 7nm, but one of the drivers of our business is the massive amount of data being generated around the world. There are tens of billions of devices that will be connected to the Internet in the few years. The only commonality in the [IoT] numbers is that they go up. All of them will have some element of connectivity and with that comes data. And that drives a virtual cycle. In our business, we love this – my point is, there’s a huge room for innovation. The innovation isn’t just the device but the software and application side.

How do investors view the emerging markets and trends? Do they see the opportunities or are they still focusing on traditional markets?

Chris Danely: From a broad perspective, the thing that an analyst looks at – are they playing to their strengths? You might have a company that starts out very successful, but they don’t play to their strengths and start to waste money. For example, Texas Instruments has taken their R&D down, but still outgrow the industry, because they play to their strengths. Another example is Intel – in the last 3 years, they were in the foundry business – we see a lot of potential to upset the apple cart in the foundry business. Nobody else could do this, but this is an area where we see them exploiting their strengths. Is the company playing to its strengths? We also look at ARM on servers – we don’t know if this is going to work or not, but I don’t think this changing the landscape of the industry. There’s still a bright future with semiconductor stocks.

How can executives communicate their R&D strategy better?

Chris Danely: I’ll use my personal experience – you want to keep that message very simple. Identify the growth trends. Make sure the message goes out continuously. Don’t be afraid to use a few buzz words/charts.

Lode Lauwers: If I may, Wall Street is looking in the short term. Time scale [for R&D] is close to 15 years. I don’t know if Wall Street has that visibility. I think a company should consider R&D as a long term investment. We go for long term engagements.

Rory McInerney: It’s a portfolio question in terms of R&D – you’re going to have your short term and your long term investments. I don’t think Wall Street is looking at all the details of investments. I think that our investments on the product side go out 10 years, but they’re small compared to our other investments.

Chris Danely: Wall Street has to consider about things on a six month basis.

Mike Noonen: Biotech, which has a very long time to market, is the second largest venture capital in the US. Biotech has remained lucrative and interesting in the US. In this area, companies go after a single application or problem, and it’s a vibrant and healthy investment. The take away is – it’s all about the economics. It might enable small start ups to innovate and then be acquired.

How should the industry leverage a company like imec?

Lode Lauwers: More than ever, you need to build partnerships. In this industry, we used to say, “Our company can work on its own.” Now, your ecosystem needs to become wider. Ten years ago, people were still sponsoring R&D. Now we are assessed in every individual area, deliverable by deliverable, on does it benefit, is there ROI. You need to be able to deliver relevant work. A company on its own doesn’t always have these abilities in house. Using imec, it’s like building on competences.

Do you see differences in how you approach partnerships?

Chris Danely: The CEOs and CFOs of semi companies are under pressure to not increase expenses, and that’s stifled risk-taking. Some are now approaching R&D through acquisition of startups with personnel – rather than partnerships.

Do you think these companies are larger – semi is a part of a much larger landscape – do you think this might drive the industry/change the landscape?

Rory McInerney: About 70-80 percent of cloud computing today is driven by the social media. That didn’t exist 5 years ago. There is a direct link between that and the changing semi landscape.

What is the biggest risk in the industry right now?

Chris Danely: Saturation. Semi companies are profitable, but we’re starting to see a lot of them, especially as fablite and fabless models are catching on.

Moderator Scott Jones of AlixPartners

Moderator Scott Jones of AlixPartners