Analog/mixed-signal, micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) and specialty semiconductor foundry X-FAB Silicon Foundries SE of Tessenderlo, Belgium has announced a further expansion of its long-standing partnership with German government-funded IHP – Leibniz Institute for High Performance Microelectronics of Frankfurt (Oder). As part of a new agreement, X-FAB will now license IHP’s silicon germanium (SiGe) technology, so the performance benefits of this technology can be brought to high-volume customers.
Significantly strengthening the X-FAB technology portfolio, the newly created 130nm platform provides what is said to be a unique solution attaining the elevated performance parameters needed to address next-generation communication requirements. Examples of areas benefiting from the technology include Wi-Fi 6 (and future Wi-Fi 7) access points, plus next-generation cellular infrastructure (in particular 5G mmW and emerging 6G standards) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. This technology will also be pivotal in the development of +100GHz radar systems, it is reckoned, for use in both automotive and consumer applications.
The license agreement follows on from the collaborative work that began in 2021, where X-FAB’s copper back-end was added to IHP’s SG13S and SG13G2 front-end technologies to boost the bandwidth figures that could be supported. In relation to this SiGe platform, X-FAB is set to start engaging with selected early adopters on prototyping projects during fourth-quarter 2022. An early-access process design kit (PDK) is available, enabling prototyping, while volume manufacturing will occur at X-FAB France, the company’s facility near Paris.
“The incorporation of IHP’s HBTs [heterojunction bipolar transistors] into X-FAB’s RF platform will provide customers with a truly differentiated SiGe BiCMOS [bipolar complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor] technology that is certain to bring tangible performance benefits,” believes IHP’s scientific director professor Gerhard Kahmen. “The technology transfer between our two organizations is a perfect example of how industry and research institutions can work together to achieve outstanding results,” he adds.
“X-FAB and IHP have a successful track record of combining our respective resources to develop advanced semiconductor solutions, and this latest SiGe announcement takes that on to a whole new exciting phase,” says X-FAB’s RF technology director Dr Greg U’Ren. “This is the starting point for us to make further SiGe BiCMOS-related innovations that will contribute to defining the communications sector in the years ahead, covering industrial automation, consumer and automotive use cases.”