A powerful European consortium held the kick-off meeting of the EU-funded project labeled DOTFIVE and titled “Towards 0.5 TeraHertz Silicon/Germanium Heterojunction Bipolar technology (SiGe HBT).” Led by STMicroelectronics, the consortium is setting out to develop advanced silicon-based bipolar transistors with a maximum operating frequency of 0.5 THz (0.5 TeraHertz or 500 GigaHz) needed for future millimeter wave and terahertz communication, radar, imaging and sensing applications. The three-year project is worth Euros 14.75 million withEuros 9.7 million European Commission funding, making it the largest (More than Moore) nanoelectronics project under EU Framework Programme 7.
DOTFIVE is aiming to establish a leadership position for the European semiconductor industry in the area of SiGe HBTs (Silicon-Germanium Heterojunction Bipolar Transistors) for millimeter wave applications, where semiconductor manufacturers like STMicroelectronics and Infineon Technologies are already involved. “With this ambitious project, Europe is getting ahead of the RF roadmap defined in ITRS, strengthening its position in an area where the whole ecosystem is already strong”, said Gilles Thomas, DOTFIVE project coordinator and STMicroelectronics R&D Cooperative Programs Manager. Emerging high-volume millimeter wave applications encompass, for example, 77 GHz automotive radar applications and 60 GHz WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) communication systems. According to U.S. market research company Strategy Analysts, the market for long-range anti-collision warning systems in cars could increase by more than 65 percent per year until 2011. In addition to these already evolving markets, DOTFIVE technology sets out to be a key enabler for silicon-based millimeter wave circuits penetrating the so-called THz gap, enabling enhanced imaging systems with applications in the security, medical and scientific area.
Today’s state-of-the-art SiGe HBTs achieve roughly a maximum operating frequency of 300 GHz at room temperature. The DOTFIVE project has set its goal at 500 GHz at room temperature, a performance usually thought only possible with III-V compound semiconductor technologies. A higher operating speed can open up new application areas at very high frequencies, or can be traded in for lower power dissipation, or can help to reduce the impact of process, voltage and temperature variations at lower frequencies for better circuit reliability. SiGe HBTs are key devices for high-frequency low-power applications. Compared to III-V compound semiconductor devices, they enable high density and low-cost integration making them suitable for consumer applications.
In order to achieve their goals, the DOTFIVE partners will team up for research and development work on silicon-based transistor architectures, device modeling, and circuit design. The project involves 15 partners from industry and academia in five countries:
- Infineon Technologies (Germany) and STMicroelectronics (France) are capable of manufacturing 250 GHz HBTs on silicon and willing to push up to 500 GHz by working on structural and technological improvements
- IMEC (Belgium) and IHP (Germany), two research institutes working on innovative HBT concepts, new process modules and transistor structures on silicon wafers
- XMOD Technologies (France) and GWT-TUD (Germany), two small and medium enterprises (SMEs) capable of providing needed parameter extraction and RF device modeling expertise
- Seven academic partners – the Johannes Kepler University of Linz (Austria), the ENSEIRB (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Electronique, Informatique et Radiocommunications de Bordeaux), the Paris-Sud University (France), the Technical University of Dresden (Germany), the Bundeswehr University in Munich( Germany), the University of Siegen (Germany), the University of Naples (Italy) – with a strong understanding of nano-transistors, simulation, modeling and characterization of devices as well as design of RF electronic functional blocks. ALMA (France) is in charge of all administrative and financial aspects of the project.
DOTFIVE is supported by the European Commission under contract N0 216110 from the Information and Communication Technologies Program within the European Union’s FP7.