We all know that the keystone of the semiconductor business is a steady stream of ground-breaking technology developments. This keystone often carries the business through commercial highs and lows. After all, it’s an industry that’s often at the mercy of market forces, and these capricious influences have been highlighted by one recent news event: Freescale is seriously thinking about closing its facility in East Kilbride, Scotland—if it is unable to sell it.
However, in contrast to that dour situation comes the heartening announcement that Europe’s PULLNANO Consortium made some extremely interesting technical breakthroughs in its 32nm and 22nm CMOS work. The group managed to create a functional CMOS SRAM demonstrator using 32nm design techniques.
What’s important here is that functional SRAM uses special MOS transistors. The architecture of these devices has several key differences versus transistors normally used in the 45nm technology area. The transistors are built using a low power consumption approach based on FDSoI (fully depleted silicon on insulator), and this is coupled with a gate stack composed of a high-K gate dielectric and a single metal electrode stack.
Other interesting developments from this European Consortium concern modeling and simulation, relating to the prediction of device performance for 32nm and 22nm CMOS technologies. One new simulation method enables the evaluation, prior to fabrication, of the impact of technology options like the channel material and choice of high-k dielectric. So, there’s no doubt that, technically, the future for the semiconductor industry looks strong.
Then what’s gone wrong for Freescale in Scotland? Following the purchase of Freescale via a private equity funding deal, the company has experienced reduced revenues. This may be making it hard for Freescale to fund the debt held by the private equity firm involved in its acquisition. The result may inevitably lead to closure or sale.
Fortunately for the industry as a whole, there’s always the reassuring constant that technology advances will always counterbalance the short-term glitches spawned by inevitable commercial pressures.