IMEC forms 'more-than-CMOS' alliance with TSMC
May 11, 2010 // Peter Clarke
Luc van den Hove, president and chief executive officer of IMEC (Leuven, Belgium), has said the research institute has entered into a partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) to develop hybrid "more-than-Moore" process technologies and pass them on to the Taiwanese foundry.
Although IMEC works with most leading chip makers on the leading-edge of CMOS materials and process development, there is tremendous scope for creating application-driven variants of CMOS at more mature nodes.
Speaking at the International Electronics Forum in Dresden, Germany, van den Hove said IMEC would develop CMORE platforms for specific applications. Hybrid processes could mix logic and memory with thermal, chemical and optical sensors, with bioelectronic interfaces, with photonics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and RF circuits in BiCMOS processes.
While IMEC has created and is expanding a 300-mm pilot wafer fab for leading-edge research, it has an older 200-mm pilot line that is suitable for developing so-called CMORE processes.
"We will develop CMORE platforms for specific applications and have a partnership with for TSMC to take on the processes from there," van den Hove told attendees at the conference.
Van den Hove said that for a major foundry like TSMC there was a chicken-or-egg problem in that it could not develop specialized processes until it was sure of volume demand and volume demand would not materialize without the existence of the process. IMEC was in a position to break that impasse and to work with customers in low volumes before passing the process over to TSMC as and when higher volumes of chips are needed.
Finding the sweet spot where an application-specific process appeals to a large number of customers, or at least a few customers who foresee high volumes, will be the key. Such areas could include medical electronics, consumer interfaces or instrumentation.
IMEC has appointed Kees den Otter, former president of TSMC Europe BV, to the position of vice president of emerging business, an apparent indication that IMEC intends to drive its CMORE program on a commercial basis.
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