21 July 2006

Did you know that the US Census Bureau collects a huge amount of data about US manufacturing? I didn't, I thought they just counted people. But they also count production and shipments of a vast assortment of products, and generally provide "the single most comprehensive set of data about the structure, functioning, and operating condition of the American economy." All paid for with tax dollars, and therefore free. Fortunately for those of us who didn't know this treasure trove even existed, there's a help page.

Posted 02:39 PM

20 July 2006

Yes, a word count. Grand total for the year is a pitiful 44,360. I doubt I'll get to my original goal of 300,000, but 150,000 or so would be nice, and may be essential given the projects I've committed to.

Posted 11:32 PM

For various reasons, NMOS devices do not see as much of a mobility improvement from strain engineering techniques as PMOS devices. As Applied Materials explained in a press conference at Semicon West, maintaining complementary performance from NMOS devices therefore requires a lot of strain. Advanced NMOS devices are likely to need SiN stress liners, strained STI wells, strained pre-metal dielectrics, and selective SiC layers, all supplying tensile strain.

All of which, Soitec likes to point out, provide a compelling argument for the use of wafer-level global strain techniques. The company unveiled a commercial line of strained silicon on insulator (SSOI) wafers. Freescale, an early adopter of SOI, is considering SSOI for use in its 45 nm process.

Posted 06:20 PM

Some companies are better at wedging useful information into a 30 minute meeting than others. My Semicon West meeting with Novellus was one of the more useful meetings of the show for me.

According to company president Sass Somekh, the biggest drivers for electronics these days are flash memory, energy conservation -- there are 150 microprocessors in the Toyota Prius, for instance -- and medical applications like imaging. Unfortunately, while unit shipments of integrated circuits are going up, revenue is relatively stagnant.

Among the key issues in the interconnect space are:

  • Barrier/seed layer integrity, particularly as the industry moves to ultrathin barriers to reduce resistance. ALD barriers are likely to be needed by the 32 nm technology generation.

  • Copper filling technology. Smaller features fill more quickly, though, so maintaining a void-free fill is easier.

  • Copper resistivity and electromigration, both of which are improved by better copper surface quality and better SiC barrier layers. Though an electroless cobalt cap has been proposed to prevent electromigration, smaller features make bridging between lines more likely.

  • Many companies appear willing to redesign their devices in order to keep using dielectrics with a dielectric constant of 3.0 or so. Companies with large libraries are being more aggressive, as lower dielectric constants let them shrink their devices without redesigning them.

  • Posted 11:50 AM

    When I was at Pennwell Publishing, a colleague shared one of his favorite tips for recharging the creative engine: go to a good bookstore or newsstand and spend $50 on magazines you don't normally read. I did that Monday, and found, among other things, an excellent special section on India in Foreign Affairs. Discusses how India's current economic boom is driven from the bottom up, by entrepreneurs, rather than (or even in spite of) by government fiat. In the same issue, a good overview of one of the unexpected (though completely predictable) consequences of Saddam Hussein's overthrow: the rise of Iran, and of Shiite Islam in general.

    Posted 11:40 AM

    19 July 2006

    More from Semicon West...

    Rudolph Technologies announced their new Synergy MPX system (PDF), which offers their MetaPulse technology and a new small-spot x-ray fluorescence tool on one platform. It uses monochromatic, rather than broadband, x-rays to reduce background noise, and can characterize films down to monolayer thickness. Unlike conventional XRF, the small spot fits in a standard 80-micron scribe line.

    Posted 01:37 PM

    Focus is a common problem for self-employed people. There's no boss breathing down your neck, and all the distractions of the internet are just a mouse-click away. David Seah's Printable CEO tools are one way to make sure you're doing things that actually add value, instead of just soaking up time.

    Posted 11:26 AM

    17 July 2006

    University of Chicago economist David Galenson likes art. When he started investing in art, he also began trying to figure out how creative genius develops. He found two very different creative types. One is epitomized by Pablo Picasso, who revolutionized the art world at 26. The other is represented by Paul Cezanne, who created his greatest work at 64. Then he found similar types in literature -- F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain -- and in music -- Mozart and Beethoven. He thinks the two types exist everywhere, with important implications for any business that depends on innovation.

    Posted 11:53 AM

    EE Times is reporting that Semiconductor Manufacturing Magazine will be sold, and that the owner-to-be plans to close the book. I have no further information on this report, other than that the magazine was on the agenda for last week's SEMI Board of Directors meeting.

    Posted 09:38 AM


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