Integration, both physical and functional, will be the defining theme of upcoming advances in semiconductor packaging. Packaging has been the key enabler for miniaturized and integrated electronic products since the 1990s, and this trend will perpetuate with the next generation of consumer electronics.
Physical integration, such as memory stacking, has been in high-volume production for about a decade, starting with flash + SRAM in cell phones. Now, DRAM chips are being stacked in memory modules, with densities reaching new levels regularly thanks to constantly improving wafer thinning and interconnect technologies. And current progress in through-silicon vias is producing impressive achievements in vertical integration. It will be an interesting technology to watch in 2007.
Functional integration via semiconductor packaging started with system-in-package (SiP) solutions, where chips with a variety of functions are interconnected within a single package. Emerging approaches now include integration of functions beyond conventional chips, including MEMS and optical components.
Imaging chips and other types of sensors will be further integrated with the electronics to control, process, store, and transmit the information gathered by the sensor. This kind of functional integration will require more advanced interconnect technologies; “microcontact” substrates and other such approaches are designed to meet those challenges.
A critical part of any of these advances in integration, though, is thermal management. Therefore, we should also expect to see solutions that reduce the heat generated by these highly integrated components as well as remove the heat from them. Optimization of materials and heat-transfer interfaces typically will be part of the solution, and approaches that have been niche solutions—phase-change materials, liquid cooling, and microchannels—will need to become more mainstream technologies.
Belgacem Haba is a Tessera Fellow and CTO of Advanced Packaging and Interconnects with Tessera Inc.