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First 0.35 micron CMOS circuits completed in the France Telecom-CNET/ SGS-THOMSON Joint Center
The creation of the Joint Center in 1989 was agreed within the framework of the Jessi and Esprit Programs with the objective of carrying out the research and development necessary for the assembly of the 0.5 and 0.35 micron CMOS process.
The two partners share equally the costs of research and development carried out in the clean room in Crolles, where the industrial manufacturing activities of SGS-THOMSON are also carried out as a natural progression to exploit commercially the research results. This perfect intellectual and geographical co-operation between research and industrial production has, since the creation of the Joint Center, proved to be extremely beneficial in terms of the rapidity with which the processes are introduced into the production line. Among those is the 0.5 micron CMOS process, which is used to produce integrated circuits (ICs), such as MPEG decoder ICs, for which SGS-THOMSON is the world leader with more than two million devices sold to date, and the FFT8K for digital TV, recently introduced by CNET.
The Joint Center uses equipment to process 200 mm silicon wafers and gathers together 125 researchers from both CNET and SGS-THOMSON.
The 0.35 CMOS process, currently used in the assembly and development of a complex evaluation circuit of several million transistors, consists of five metal levels and involves more than 140 elementary operations. Among the features of particular interest in this technological process are selective tungsten vias, plasma inter-metal dielectric deposition, and chemical-mechanical planarization for the inter-metallic oxides.
The critical elementary steps in the 0.35 micron CMOS process were previously developed within the Gressi partnership in Grenoble between CNET and LETI, the French microelectronics research institute, and validated in spring 1994. The transfer of know-how between Gressi and SGS-THOMSON was performed within the framework of an agreement finalized at the beginning of 1995. This was achieved within a very short time thanks to the perfect synergy and successful exchange of personnel between the Gressi teams in Meylan, the home of the France Telecom-CNET microelectronics research center, and LETI in Grenoble, and the Joint Center team in Crolles.
As well as the evaluation circuit, the two partners are using complex circuit prototypes to further validate the process and accelerate the introduction of products based on this process. SGS-THOMSON is using a systolic processor as a test circuit for the estimation of movement in images. This circuit also makes it possible to test the latest CAD tools developed for complex circuits involving several million transistors and the associated design methodologies. Other circuits, particularly those connected with the computing and image processing markets, are in the design phase with a view to meeting the already existing market demands.
As for the CNET, it is studying a programmable video processor for the coding of images, particularly in accordance with the MPEG-4 standard, currently undergoing standardization, as well as circuits for the terrestrial broadcasting of digital TV. This technology is now crucial to the introduction of new telecommunications services, and more particularly to the integration of highly complex source and channel coding algorithms.
These results bear witness to the relevance of these Grenoble alliances to microelectronics and especially of the original collaboration represented by a research unit integrated into a production site. These partnerships are today the pride of the microelectronics sector in Europe and are fundamental to future programs.
SGS-THOMSON is a global independent semiconductor supplier listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:STM) and on the Bourse de Paris. It designs, develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of semiconductor integrated circuits (ICs) and discrete devices used in a wide variety of microelectronics applications, including telecommunications systems, computer systems, consumer products, automotive products and industrial automation and control systems.
France Telecom-CNET is the research organisation of France Telecom and the center in Meylan, near Grenoble is focused on silicon-based microelectronics. It has a high level of competence in the fields of software, electronics, telecommunications circuits, technologies and materials sciences.