Chip makers jointly develop 0.09-micron process

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC), Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV and STMicroelectronics NV (ST) have successfully produced chips using a 0.09-micron (90-nanometer) process that is expected to result in faster chips that consume less power, the companies said Tuesday.

The three companies have successfully produced test 1M-bit and 4M-bit SRAM (static RAM) chips on 200-mm (8-inch) wafers at the joint ST-Philips pilot production line in Crolles, France, and at TSMC's Fab 3 research and development facility in Hsinchu, Taiwan, the companies said. Prototype chip production using the 0.09-micron process is expected to begin during the second half of 2002.

The 0.09-micron process will allow the three companies to produce chips that run at higher speeds and consume less power than chips produced using an existing 0.13-micron process. The 0.09-micron process is expected to be used to produce chips for a range of applications, including 3G (third-generation) mobile handsets and digital consumer products, the companies said.

The development of the 0.09-micron process is part of joint development project between the three companies to develop advanced chip-making processes. The project began in mid-2001 and will last five years, said Renee Penning de Vries, deputy chief technology officer (CTO) at Philips Semiconductors.

Among the reasons for the three companies coming together to jointly develop advanced production processes were the need to develop alternative production capacity, a desire to share high research and development costs, and a need to stay ahead of competitors by bringing volume 0.09-micron production online as quickly as possible, said Jack Sun, senior director at TSMC's Advanced Logic Technology Division.

Looking ahead, the companies plan to develop more advanced processes, including a 0.065-micron (65-nanometer) process that is expected to be introduced roughly two years after the 0.09-micron process, Sun said.

Reaching that goal won't be easy, however. Chip makers are concerned about how much the 0.065-micron process will cost to develop and whether the equipment needed to make semiconductors using a 0.065-micron process will be available in two years' time, Sun said.

There are also significant technical hurdles that must be overcome in the development of the 0.065-micron process, said Penning de Vries.

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