Electronic Design

Chip Companies Team Up On Tech Deals

Joint ventures and technology deals have been the theme for some of Europe’s biggest chip makers this Olympic summer, with Munich-based Infineon taking the gold medal and STMicroelectronics (ST) coming in a close second with silver. ULIS and Renesas Technology Europe also placed well, with their own advances in sensors and power MOSFETs, respectively.

Infineon and ST have teamed up with Singapore-based STATS ChipPAC, a specialist in three-dimensional (3D) chip-packaging solutions, as part of a technology agreement between ST and Infineon to jointly develop next-generation embedded wafer-level ball-grid array (eWLB) technology. These new developments will springboard from Infineon’s first-generation eWLB technology, which the German chipmaker has licensed to the other two firms.

Intellectual property (IP) generated by this collaboration will be jointly owned. The core research strategy will focus on using both sides of a reconstituted wafer to form semiconductor devices with a higher integration level and a greater number of contact elements. The eWLB technology uses a combination of traditional “front-end” and “back-end” semiconductor manufacturing techniques with parallel processing of all the chips on the wafer.

This, together with the increased level of integration and a very much higher number of external contacts, means the technology can provide cost and size benefits for makers of wireless and consumer products. First samples are expected at the end of this year.

Happy Coincidence

It is probably unsurprising that the advantages this technology will provide in the design of wireless products fits very neatly with ST’s other recently announced partnership with NXP Semiconductors—a wireless joint venture, predictably named ST-NXP Wireless, that in turn has announced plans to merge with Ericsson Mobile Platforms. ST-NXP Wireless started operations in August with a cash balance of $350 million.

Management of the joint venture believe that ST-NXP Wireless will be well positioned with technologies for UMTS for the emerging TD-SCDMA standard and other cellular, multimedia, and connectivity capabilities, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio, USB, and Ultra-Wideband (UWB), in addition to full access to a license from NXP to near-field communication (NFC).

Olympic HEVs

Visitors and competitors at this year’s Olympic games in Beijing may well have ridden in a Jiexin electronic car using Infineon’s power electronics technology (Fig. 1). These hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are in the mild hybrid category, which means they’re equipped with a combustion engine and an electric motor. They can store the energy created when braking in the vehicle’s battery for later use by the electric motor.

In this application, Infineon cut the size and the weight of the car’s electronic control unit and its power electronics by a third (Fig. 2). Measuring approximately 20 by 30 by 10 cm—about the size of a standard shoebox—it weighed less than 40 lb but managed to achieve a reduction in electric power losses by up to 20%.

Simultaneously with this HEV application, Infineon also managed to land a lucrative contract to supply a Chinese public transportation company, Shenzhen Tong, with its SLE 66PE security microcontroller for use in a travel and payment smart card the Chinese company is introducing.

The cards will incorporate all major proximity interfaces on a single chip, including ISO/IEC 14443 Type B, Type A, ISO/IEC 18092 passive mode, and Mifare emulation. The chip also complies with most global transportation standards and can operate at baud rates up to 848 kbits/s. Systems with existing Milfare memory cards can be upgraded to SLE 66PE to provide interoperability with existing reader infrastructures.

Why such a lucrative deal for Infineon? Well, Shenzhen Tong is expected to issue 8 million cards in under three years

French Visionaries

French infrared vision specialist ULIS has won a contract from Sagem Défense Sécurité to supply the French army with uncooled thermal sensors that will be used in night vision equipment. These sensors employ microbolometers, which detect thermal energy over the long-wave range (8 to 14 µm).

When this happens, the detector heats up in response to the absorbed energy and changes its electrical resistance. This resistance change is analysed and processed to create an image. The difference here is that unlike other infrared equipment, microbolometers don’t need cooling, which means equipment costs are reduced.

Dual-Type Power MOSFET Plays It Cool

Renesas Technology Europe has announced a MOSFET for synchronous rectification dc-dc converters (Fig. 3). The RJK0383DPA integrates dual-power MOSFETs of two different types—one as the high-side element and the other as the low-side element.

The high-side power MOSFET has a drain-gate load of 1.5 nC (at VDD = 10 V) to provide high switching speed and correspondingly high efficiency. The low-side power MOSFET has a low on-resistance of 3.7 mΩ (typically at 4.5 V).

In addition, a Schottky barrier diode is integrated with the low-side power MOSFET to minimize the wiring inductance between them. This speeds up the switch of current flow to the Schottky barrier diode during the dc-dc converter’s dead time. It also suppresses voltage spikes during switching.

WPAK high-thermal-radiation packaging is used to maximize heat dissipation. In a power MOSFET, heat is generated due to on-resistance, switching, and other loss factors. The amount of current that can be controlled is determined by how efficiently this heat can be released. The structure of the WPAK package allows heat dissipation to the board from a heat-dissipating die pad on the rear surface.

The RJK0383DPA MOSFET will be available in October 2008.

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