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GlobalFoundries CTO Calls for Innovation in Chip Materials

“It’s really all about materials innovation,” said Gary Patton, chief technology officer of GlobalFoundries and head of the company’s worldwide research and development, in his keynote address on Tuesday at SEMI’s Strategic Materials Conference in Mountain View, Calif.

The semiconductor technology landscape looks challenging and even daunting at the moment. “We always figure out how to keep going,” Patton told the overflow audience.

The industry has reached “the end of the planar device era,” he added, and entered into “the 3D era,” with 3D chips and 3D stacking of chips in packaging.

Ahead in the not-too-distant future lies “the atomic era” of carbon nanotubes and other materials to replace silicon, Patton said, a theme that was reinforced over the conference’s two days, surrounded by information technology artifacts in the Computer History Museum.

Extreme-ultraviolet lithography is “a key challenging technology,” Patton observed. “We need to make it happen. EUV will take us into the 2020s.”

Double-patterning with immersion lithography will usher the industry into the 10-nanometer process node, according to the GlobalFoundries technologist. Implementing EUV will simplify a number of aspects of lithography, such as the multiple photomasks involved. “EUV will take us back to the 45-nanometer era,” Patton said.

He reviewed several areas of semiconductor manufacturing that will be changing in the near future, from the front end to the back end.

It was nearly three months ago that GlobalFoundries completed its acquisition of IBM Microelectronics. Patton served as vice president of IBM’s Semiconductor Research and Development Center for eight years prior to joining GlobalFoundries in July.

In his keynote, he touted the network of New York’s “Tech Valley,” taking in GlobalFoundries’ facilities in Malta, N.Y.; the Albany NanoTech Complex; and the former IBM chip facilities in East Fishkill, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt. “What we develop in Albany, we run in Malta,” Patton said.

GlobalFoundries, with its academic and industry partners, has 23 joint development projects in Albany, Patton noted, and is open to even more.

In an interview on Wednesday, Patton emphasized the development of “differentiated technologies” with the integration of IBM’s chip manufacturing operations. In addition to supplying processors for IBM’s server business over the next decade, GlobalFoundries also has IBM’s radio-frequency chip business, silicon germanium-based devices, power amplifiers, RF silicon-on-insulator technology, ASICs, and chips for wired communications, Patton noted.

The foundry is “ramping 14-nanometer technology” and working with Samsung Electronics on FinFET processes, Patton said. While the 14nm FinFET process covers advanced semiconductors, GlobalFoundries can also make lower-power parts with its 22nm fully-depleted SOI process, using the 22FDX platform.

GlobalFoundries was able to maintain the Trusted Foundry relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense with the IBM Microelectronics acquisition, according to Patton, and one business unit is devoted to aerospace and defense customers.

Asked about the delayed Fab 8.2 expansion in Malta, Patton said resumption of the project would depend on business conditions in the industry. “We’ll invest at a better time,” he said.

And what about the report concerning a Chinese financial entity approaching GlobalFoundries about a possible acquisition? “I have no knowledge of that,” Patton said.

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