SOI-3D-SubVt (S3S): three central technologies for tomorrow’s mainstream applications

ST further accelerates its FD-SOI ROs* by 2ps/stage, and reduces SRAM’s VMIN by an extra 70mV. IBM shows an apple-to-apple comparison of 10nm FinFETs on Bulk and SOI. AIST improves the energy efficiency of its FPGA by more than 10X and Nikon shows 2 wafers can be bonded with an overlay accuracy better than 250nm.

We learned all this and much more during the very successful 2014 IEEE S3S Conference.

The conference’s 40th edition (first created as the IEEE SOS technology workshop in 1975) was held in San Francisco Oct. 6-9. Dedicated to central technologies for tomorrow’s mainstream applications, the event boasted nearly 80 papers presented over 3 days covering conception, design, simulation, process and characterization of devices and circuits.



Many of the talks we heard made it very clear that the Internet-of-Things will be the next big market growth segment. It will be enabled by extremely energy-efficient and low-cost technologies in the field of RF-communications, sensors and both embedded and cloud computing. The program of the conference was very well designed to tackle these topics, starting with the short courses on Energy Efficiency and Monolithic 3D, an RF fundamentals & applications class, a MEMS hot topic session and a strong focus on ultra-low power throughout the SubVt sessions.

(Photo credit: Justin Lloyd)
S3S Conference Poster & reception session. (Photo credit: Justin Lloyd)

 The interest of the participants could be seen through an increase in Short Course and Fundamentals Class participation (+20%) compared to last year.

 The companies working in the field of RF communications and mobile chips were well represented, including attendees and presenters coming from Broadcom, MediaTek, Murata, Newlans, Qualcomm, RFMD, Skyworks and TowerJazz.


Sub-Threshold Microelectronics

The SubVT portion of the conference featured an extremely strong suite of papers on advancements in subthreshold circuit design including ultra-low-voltage microprocessors, FPGAs, and analog circuits. Additionally, there were sessions on technologies which enable very low voltage computation, such as radiation testing during subthreshold operation, and efficient energy-harvesting devices to allow indefinite operation of IoT systems. A number of talks explored the future of ultra low voltage computing, presenting results from emerging technologies such as Spin Torque Transfer devices and TFETs.

3D Integration

The 3D integration track keeps growing in the conference and is strongly focused on monolithic 3D. A dedicated full day short course was offered again this year, as well as two joint sessions featuring several papers on process integration, design, precision alignment bonders and more. Progress is being made and a lot of interest in this technology is being generated (See the EE Times article).

Key Fully-Depleted SOI Technical results

Planar Fully-Depleted SOI technologies were well represented again this year, in both SOI and Sub-Vt parallel sessions. A full session was also dedicated to FinFETs.

STMicroelectronics and CEA-Leti gave us a wealth of information on:

  • From "Design Strategy for Energy Efficient SOCs in UTBB FD-SOI Technology" in the S3S '14 "Energy Efficiency" short course by P. Flatresse (Source: STMicroelectronics)
    From “Design Strategy for Energy Efficient SOCs in UTBB FD-SOI Technology” in the S3S ’14 “Energy Efficiency” short course by P. Flatresse (Source: STMicroelectronics)

    How to improve your circuit’s efficiency by co-optimizing Vdd, poly-bias and back-gate voltage simultaneously during the circuit design. Picking the correct optimization vector enables you to gain more than 2X in speed or up to 5X in power compared to the non-optimized circuit. (P. Flatresse, “Design Strategy for Energy Efficient SOCs in UTBB FD-SOI Technology” in the “Energy Efficiency” short course). In the same presentation we saw how going to a single-well configuration can help further reduce SRAM’s VMin by 70mV (see graph to the right).

  •  How to use FMAX tracking to maintain optimal Vdd, VBB values during operation. This shows how you can take advantage of both Vdd and VBB dynamic modulation to maintain your circuit’s best performance when external conditions (e.g. temperature, supply voltage…) vary. (E. Beigné, “FDSOI Circuit Design for a Better Energy Efficiency”).

The latest updates on 14nm technology, including an additional 2ps/stage RO delay reduction since the 2014 VLSI results shown last June. This means ROs running faster than 8ps/stage at 10nA/stage of static leakage. The key elements for the 10nm node (sSOI, thinner BOX, replacement gate, next gen. ID-RSD) where also discussed. (M. Haond, “14nm UTBB FD-SOI Technology”).

In the past year we witnessed the foundry announcements for FD-SOI technology offering. Global Foundries very clearly re-stated their interest in the FD-SOI technology, claiming that 28FD-SOI is a good technology for cost sensitive mobile applications, with the cost of 28LP and the performance of 28HPP. However, GF favors a flavor of FD-SOI technology they call Advanced ET-SOI, with similar performance to 20LPM at a reduced cost.

More than An Order of Magnitude Energy Improvement of
From S3S 2014 Best Paper, “More than An Order of Magnitude Energy Improvement of FPGA by Combining 0.4V Operation and Multi-Vt Optimization of 20k Body Bias Domains” (AIST)

The IEEE S3S Conference Best Paper Award went to Hanpei Koike and co-authors from the National Institute of AIST, for their paper entitled “More than An Order of Magnitude Energy Improvement of FPGA by Combining 0.4V Operation and Multi-Vt Optimization of 20k Body Bias Domains,” presented in the SubVT part of the conference. In this work, an FPGA was fabricated in the AIST SOTB (Si On Thin BOX — which is another name for FD-SOI) process, and demonstrated successful operation down to voltages at and below the minimum energy point of the circuit. A 13x reduction in Power-Delay-Product over conventional 1.2V operation was achieved through a combination of low voltage operation and flexible body-biasing, enabled by the very thin BOX.

On the FinFET side, T.B. Hook (IBM) presented a direct comparison of “SOI FinFET versus Bulk FinFET for 10nm and below”, based on silicon data. This is a very unique work in the sense that both technologies are being developed and optimized by the same teams, in the same fab, with the same ground rules, which enables a real apple-to-apple comparison. SOI comes out a better technology in terms of Fin height control (better performance and ION variability), VT mismatch (lower VMin), output conductance (better analog and low voltage perf.) and reliability. Though external stressors are expected to be more efficient in Bulk FinFETs, mobility measurements are only 10% lower for SOI PFETs and are actually 40% higher for SOI NFETs, because of the absence of doping. The devices’ thermal resistance is higher on SOI, though bulk FinFETs are not as immune to self-heating as planar bulk. Both technologies are still competitive down to the 10nm node, but looking forward, bulk’s advantages will be rendered moot by the introduction of high mobility materials and dimensions shrinking, while SOI advantages will keep getting larger.

Experimental SOI vs. Bulk FinFET comparison showing 50% higher VT variability on bulk (grey dots on top graph) as well as mobility difference (lower graphs).
Experimental SOI vs. Bulk FinFET comparison showing 50% higher VT variability on bulk (grey dots on top graph) as well as mobility difference (lower graphs).


Join the conference in 2015!

Next year, the S3S Conference will be held October 5-8, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotel, Rohnert Park, California.

The organizing committee is looking forward to seeing you there!



Steven A. Vitale is an Assistant Group Leader in the Quantum Information and Integrated Nanosystems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.  He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from MIT.  Steven’s current research focuses on developing a fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) ultra-low-power microelectronics technology for energy-starved systems such as space-based systems and implantable biomedical devices.  Prior to joining MIT-LL, Steven was a member of the Silicon Technology Development group at Texas Instruments where he developed advanced gate etch processes. He has published 26 refereed journal articles and holds 5 patents related to semiconductor processing. From 2011 to 2012 Steven was the General Chair of the IEEE Subthreshold Microelectronics Conference, and is on the Executive Committees of the AVS Plasma Science and Technology Division, the AVS Electronic Materials and Processing Division, and the IEEE S3S Conference.

Frederic Allibert received his MS degree from the National Institute for Applied Sciences (INSA, Lyon, France) in 1997 and his PhD from Grenoble Polytechnic’s Institute (INPG) in 2003, focusing on the electrical characterization of Unibond wafers and the study of advanced device architectures such as planar double-gate and 4-gate transistors.  He was a visiting scientist at KAIST (Taejon, Korea) in 1998 and joined Soitec in 1999.  As an R&D scientist, he implemented SOI-specific electrical measurement techniques (for thin films, multi-layers, high resistivity) and supported the development of products and technologies targeting various applications, including FD-SOI, RF, imagers, and high-mobility materials.  As Soitec’s assignee at the Albany Nanotech Center since 2011, his focus is on substrate technologies for advanced nodes.  He has authored or co-authored over 50 papers and holds over 10 patents.



*RO = ring oscillator



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