Infineon, Samsung offer high-capacity smart-card chips

Infineon Technologies and Samsung Electronics have each responded to demand for higher-capacity smart-card chips with two new semiconductor designs.

Munich-based Infineon has developed a "chip-sandwich" technique that entails two integrated circuits being placed on top of each other with their function sides face-to-face. The design offers more than 100 times the memory capacity of today's chip cards while just doubling the chip area, the company said in a statement issued Tuesday at the Cartes and IT Security exhibition in Paris.

Without extra wirebonding, the two semiconductors -- one, for instance, a security microcontroller and the other memory chip -- are mechanically and electrically interconnected via hundreds of tiny contact pads on the chips' surfaces, according to Infineon. In addition to greater storage capacity without increasing the die area, the design offers greater flexibility and shorter development times.

The first of these new superimposed chips, to go into mass production in the second half of 2005, will provide 1M byte of memory or eight times more storage capacity than in current smart-card chips, according to Infineon. They will be used initially in SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards in mobile phones, a smart-card product segment in which demand for additional memory capacity is greatest, the company said. Infineon currently supplies one in every three SIM-card chips, the company said.

By the second half of 2006, the German semiconductor manufacturer plans to deliver face-to-face chips with up to 20M bytes of memory on just twice the area on which a maximum of 1M byte fits today.

At the Paris show, Samsung announced that it doubled the data storage capacity of its recently developed 256K-byte EEPROM (Electrically Erasable and Programmable ROM) embedded smart card chip to 512K bytes.

The 512K-byte smart card chip, the industry's first to use 0.13 micron process technology, enables higher memory density and smaller chip size, according to Samsung. The chip supports the enhanced user identification features of USIM (Universal SIM) and UIM (User Identity Module) cards used in 3G (third-generation) handsets, the company said.

Samsung plans mass production of the 512K byte EEPROM-embedded smart card chip in the second quarter of 2005.

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