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Digital design Issues in Deep and Very Deep Submicron Era

Rohit Tripathi, Nikita Gupta, Kshitij Bhargava

M.Tech. Microelectronics and Embedded Technology, Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida



3 kbharagava3@gmailcom

The much-debated Moore’s law is expected to hold for another decade, and we have already seen the commercialization of 22 nanometer and 18 nanometer technologies. Designing chips in these nanometer technologies has proven to be a challenge. Since the cost of manufacturing in these technologies is so high, only major semiconductor vendors appear to be geared to face the technological challenge. The smaller players in the field are looking for alternate solutions such as reconfigurable computing platforms. To push the technological limits and yet be economically viable, it is important to get the chips “right-the-first-time.” This article explores the challenges of semiconductor design technology that occupy today’s design engineers and will continue to do so for some years to come. Ever since Jack Kilby made the first integrated circuit (IC) in 1958, nothing has remained the same except for the incredible rate at which the IC is shrinking in size. Today’s engineers are designing IC’s targeted for manufacture with 22 nm and 18 nm technologies. Work is already ongoing on the 14 nm node. There were prophecies about the end of the scaling at the turn of the century when it was believed that the wavelength of light was a limit on the feature size. Yet, the deep submicron and the very deep submicron technology are now realities. As a consequence, it is now possible to build circuits which are less than one square centimeter in surface area and have more than 100 million transistors on them. With such huge capacity, the IC’s that we design today are not component chips but systems-on-chip (SoC) where the

complete functionality of a system is packed into a small piece of silicon. While the raw power of semiconductor manufacturing technology is impressive, it is only half the story. In today’s IC business the key to success is able to rapidly design a differentiated product and quickly bring it to the market place. However, this cannot be done without a sophisticated infrastructure of design components and software to support an efficient design process that ensures that we manufacture silicon that is “right-the-first-time”. This infrastructure which supports the design process is called: design technology. As the progress of manufacturing technology into the nanometer regime has thrown many new complexities into the design process thereby creating significant challenges in the field of design technology. Solving these design technology challenges is critical to achieving market success with nanometer integrated circuits.


Technologies of the deep and Very deep submicron era have responded to the non- scalability of threshold voltages by accommodating higher and higher static leakage currents. But now a number of problems arising from continued scaling confront the designer. These issues include excessive power dissipation density, gate oxide tunneling current, self heating of the device and interconnect, and a host of subsequent reliability issues. Some issues are followed as:

a) Gate-to-Body Tunneling/Leakage Current:

As the gate oxide thickness is scaled to maintain gate control, threshold voltage, and performance, the oxide tunneling leakage increases. Nitride oxide, which reduces the leakage by order of magnitude, has been widely used in the industry to contain this leakage. Nevertheless, the oxide tunneling leakage increases for every 0.1 nm decrease in oxide thickness.

b) Substrate Current due to Impact Ionization: As the scaling of MOSFETs proceeds, impact ionization of carriers in the high field region (velocity saturation or pinch-off region) becomes serious. The holes generated during the process of impact ionization flow through the substrate and result in a substrate current.

c) Band to band tunneling (BTBT) current: It occurs at the surface of the depletion layer under the gate-drain overlap region, is notable in the sub-threshold region in thin- gate-oxide MOSFETs when the gate is grounded and the drain is biased at high voltage.

d) Polysilicon Gate Depletion: As a gate voltage is applied to a heavily doped poly-Si gate, e.g. NMOS with n+ Polysilicon (poly- Si) gate, a thin depletion layer in the poly-Si can be formed at the interface between the poly-Si and the gate oxide. This depletion layer is very thin because of the high doping concentration in the poly-Si gate.

e) Self-heating Effect: Heat dissipation is a critical issue in circuit design. The temperature rise caused by the power consumption of devices in a chip may need to be considered because the device density has become huge in modern VLSI circuits.

Concluding Remarks

Silicon MOSFETs have been the smallest electronic device for several decades. Thirty five years ago, the gate oxide thickness was already in the nano-scale (120 nm) for commercial products. The gate oxide thickness is now 1.2 nm in production and 0.8 nm in research. Note that the 5-nm gate length is the distance of 18 atoms and 0.8-nm oxide thickness is two atomic layers

only. Si technology is no doubt the most successful nano-devices. Even the Si devices reach the downsizing limit no matter 10 nm, 5 nm, or 1 nm, other emerging devices such as molecular transistors will also reach their limit of downsizing in similar dimensions. It is a critical period for moving from 100-nm to 10-nm technology within this decade. Most of materials and the manufacturing processes used in the deep and very deep-submicron era are now pushing to their physical limits. New materials and technologies are required for further down- scaling the device to 10-nm technology and below. Immersion lithography for ultra fine patterning, strained channels, nickel salicide, high-k gate dielectric, low-k interlayer for interconnect, plasma doping, flash and laser annealing for source and drain doping, elevated source and drain and three-dimensional MOSFETs for controlling short-channel effects, would help to overcome the materials and technological constraints and improve the device performance in the ultra-small scale. The final remark is a non-technical issue. We anticipate that this issue will be one of the most important issues for nano-CMOS technology development in the next 15 years. We are aware that most of the new mega-fabs being planned or under construction are in the East and Southeast Asia, and particularly the Mainland China. In 10 or 15- year’s time, the distribution of semiconductor manufacturing sites in Asia (including Japan) will be quite substantial. Currently, Korea and Taiwan are in the first place for semiconductor memory manufacturing and semiconductor foundry, respectively. They also lead the technology development in Asia region. Mainland China seems to be another super power for semiconductor manufacturing. The share of China semiconductor manufacturing will keep fast growing with the support of booming IC design houses, constructing new fabs with remarkable increase in industrial investment, and will be the most important huge and rapidly expending market. As many other industries and other sectors of electronic products, Mainland China will eventually become “the factory of the world” in semiconductor manufacturing in 15 years or longer and will have great impact on the future nano-CMOS technology.