IBM recently announced the availability of a new 180-nm process technology that integrates wireless communication capabilities and sensors on the same chip, for use in the manufacturing of power management electronic devices.
The process, called CMOS-7HV, is in fact the entry of IBM in the important area of "green technology" and is addressed primarily to the development of alternative energy sources, "smart buildings", new electronic devices available commercially, and smartphones. This technology is innovative because it allows the realization of circuits for the control of energy consumption by reducing the cost by at least 20%. Electronic designers will now have access to a new type of semiconductor, thin and ultra reliable, which can monitor in real time the use of electrical power, and communicate instantaneously with the systems used to control the "smart" buildings and energy grid. The main functionality performed by the power control chips is to optimize the power consumption and ensure that the delivery of the same occurs continuously, without interruptions. Typical applications for this new techology are solar panels, automotive devices, consumer electronics (digital TVs) and mobile communications (cellular and smartphones).
The ability to integrate multiple functions on the same chip dramatically reduces production costs compared to traditional architectures based on the use of different components, and cost is an important factor for success in the area of power control devices. IBM is already receiving orders for the manufacture of CMOS-7HV, and production is planned for the first half of 2011.
The main technical specifications of this new technology are as follows:
- 180 nm lithography
- triple-gate oxide CMOS technology for high voltages, comprising FET trnsistors able to support voltages between 20 and 50V (expandable up to 120V)
- isolation STI (Shallow Trench Isolation)
- density of 150000 circuits per mm2
- support for the integration of devices with voltages of 1.8 V, 5 V, 20 V and 50 V on the same chip
- features specific to the RF component:
- precision resistors (poly, diffusion, and well)
- MiM capacitors, and vertical natural for high voltage use
- High Voltage Schottky barrier diodes
- OTP (One Time Programmable) memory
- 3 to 7 levels of aluminum interconnects including the final metal layer
- wire-bond or solder-bump terminals
The result is a material capable of integrating on a single chip wireless communication capabilities with the power management feature. In the field of alternative forms of energy, for example, the new PM (Power Management) technology from IBM allows a more efficient use of the solar panels. For this specification, it shall be possible to re-using up to 57% of the energy normally "lost" under field conditions (eg the presence of dirt on the panels). In the field of hybrid and electric vehicles, the wireless capability of the CMOS-7HV PM technology could help reduce by 30% the weight of wiring, increasing the energy efficiency of the vehicle. In the field of smart buildings, finally, the PM technology could play an important role, reducing the size or even eliminating part of the electric wiring. This application is very important because it is estimated that approximately 40% of the energy consumed is used in the buildings.
The goal is to get quickly to the Zero Net technology , ie buildings that have zero impact on the environment in terms of pollutant emissions. No less importantly, is the consumer electronics industry, where the number of mobile devices (devices for mobile phones, laptops) and television, costantly growing, require advanced power management devices.
CMOS-7HV technology can be used not only in the area of power control and amangement, but also in the field of LED lighting (LED backlight for LCD display and industrial lighting), audio and hi-fi drivers, switching regulators, and sensors for high voltages.