UK startup teases CMOS-beating Bizen chip fab tech

October 21, 2019 | 10:51

Tags: #allen-james #bizen #cmos #david-summerland #fab #fabriction #moores-law #quantum #quantum-tunneling #semiconductor

Companies: #search-for-the-next #semefab

Nottingham-based startup Search For The Next (SFN) and Scottish semiconductor specialist Semefab have joined forces to implement a new production process which is claimed to have the potential to 'wind back the Moore's Law clock by 10 years or more.'

Moore's Law, the observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a leading-edge part trends towards a doubling roughly every 18 months, has become a must-hit target for the semiconductor industry. As process nodes and component sizes shrink, however, continuing to hit Moore's Law is proving increasingly difficult.

Enter Bizen. 'The CMOS processing industry is hitting a brick wall as shrinking geometries bash up against the laws of physics. We went back to the very beginning and found a way to commercialise quantum tunnel mechanics in silicon or wide band-gap device manufacture,' claims David Summerland, chief executive officer of Nottingham-based startup Search For The Next (SFN). 'The result is "Bizen" – Bipolar/Zener – which retains the advantages of traditional bipolar processing yet removes the disadvantages by using Zener quantum tunnel mechanics. This results in lower dynamic power, higher speed and higher gate density, halving the number of process layers required, reducing material use by two thirds, and slashing manufacturing time. This allows any fab to become a category killer.'

According to SFN, Bizen reduces lead time from 15 weeks to just three, halves the number of layers required in a given process, while equalling or bettering the speed and power draw aspects of a traditional CMOS process. The trick: Using quantum tunnelling to dispense with the resistor normally required by bipolar parts, creating a very low power and considerably simplified circuit - and in doing so allows semiconductor fabs set up for larger process nodes to directly compete with those that have upgraded to produce on a smaller node.

'If Bizen can be adopted by the industry, an important prize given the reduction in die area at a given technology node comparing a Bizen and CMOS logic implementation would be the ability to wind back the Moores' Law clock by 10 years or more,' says Semefab chief executive Allen James, whose company has been working with SFN on commercialisation of Bizen since 2017, 'and bring many "previous-generation" wafer fabs back into mainstream manufacture.'

SFN has not yet released full technical details of the Bizen processor, nor has it named any semiconductor companies bar Semefab as partners or customers on the project.

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