IMI Labs formed to accelerate chip materials selection

June 21, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
Intermolecular Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) has divided its business into two halves; IMI Discovery, which licenses out intellectual property, and IMI Labs, which provides a service based business to find material systems.

IMI Labs, which has a 300mm wafer fab in San Jose, makes use of  Intermolecular’s high-throughput experimentation platform, materials expertise and analytics to speed exploration, discovery, characterization and selection of advanced materials.

The use of atomic layer deposition and physical vapor deposition and up to hundreds of experiments on a each wafer means that IMI Labs can optimize and bring up material systems rapidly. Bruce McWilliams, who took over as CEO of Intermolecular in October 2014, pointed out that while 300mm wafer fabs are plentiful in industry they are devoted to mass production and not usually available to run experimental wafers.

IMI Labs therefore provides access to new or exotic materials that are risky to bring into billion-dollar fabs or production facilities.

"The future of innovation in the semiconductor industry is highly dependent on the discovery and selection of new complex materials,” said McWilliams, in a statement. "With IMI Labs, semiconductor manufacturers can experiment with various material combinations without bringing new materials into their production fabs."

The company has been working with most of the leading DRAM makers in this way, both on material selection and with combined stacks for which IMI Labs can perform extensive physical and electrical characterization. The company said it now wishes to expand out to also cover digital logic.

Although IMI Labs does not have lithography equipment that goes down to the most advanced geometries for many tests this is not a problem, McWilliams said. He acknowledged that while a research institute such as IMEC or the Albany Nanotech center has access to extreme ultraviolet lithography and 10nm and 7nm geometries such set ups do not tend to be used for mass-screening of materials. Research institutes like IMEC are very complementary to us," said McWilliams. Promising areas for study include non-silicon materials, gate and contact stacks and materials for FinFETs, said McWilliam.

www.intermolecular.com

IMI Labs Webpage