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New Pact on Sub-Micron Chip Standards

Two manufacturing standards groups have agreed to shake hands on a project designed to create better production criterion for sub-micron components.

San Jose, Calif.,-based SEMI and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) signed a memorandum of understanding Monday outlining support for each other's standards programs in nanotechnology and MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems). The agreement marks the first collaboration of its kind between the two organizations.

The sub-micron space has been a hotbed of activity in the semiconductor sector both in manufacturing and research and development. In the last few years, IT giants like IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments and Fujitsu have staked their claims on the development of 90-nanometer process products and smaller.

Under the SEMI-IEEE pact, standards developed by SEMI will address such areas as materials, tools and interfaces. For its part, the IEEE standards will deal with test methods, materials, devices, interoperability and other topics. Possible areas of focus for both groups include organic, molecular, carbon nanotube and silicon nanofiber-based devices.

"This is a timely agreement because of the heightened interest in nano-enabled technology development," Bettina Weiss, director of International Standards & MEMS at SEMI said in a statement. "Our goal is to move the entire field forward by starting work on standards early in the development cycle so as to nurture commercialization, reduce costs and boost productivity."

The two groups represent the legacy of computer component standards. One of the oldest standards bodies, the IEEE, produces nearly 30 percent of the world's literature in the electrical and electronics engineering, computing and control technology fields. Similarly, the SEMI Standards Program, established in 1973, is made up of 17 global technical committees. To date, SEMI has published more than 680 standards pertaining to making semiconductors, flat-panel displays, MEMS and related microelectronics.

But the two sides have sometimes worked in silos on concurrent projects. For example, the IEEE's Standards Association has its own nanotechnology standards effort under way and expects to publish a measurement standard for carbon nanotubes in 2005. Similarly, SEMI's MEMS Initiative includes all aspects of semiconductor process equipment and materials from wafer manufacturing, test, assembly and packaging.

In addition to its work on carbon nanostructure standards (e.g., IEEE P1650, "Standard Test Methods for Measurement of Electrical Properties of Carbon Nanotubes,"), the IEEE also recently completed IEEE 1620, "Standard for Test Methods for the Characterization of Organic Transistors and Materials." This standard creates a uniform framework for evaluating organic field effect transistors (OFET) as a platform for high-volume manufacturing. The IEEE is now extending its OFET activities to device standards.

The agreement allows the two regulatory bodies to appoint liaisons, exchange information on a regular basis and schedule periodic joint meetings. The two sides also agreed to present updates at each other's committee meetings and broadcast standards information on nanotechnology and MEMS.