EAST FISHKILL, N.Y. -- IBM Corp. today announced two new versions of its existing silicon-germanium (SiGe) process technologies for foundry services in wireless ICs.
One process, based on 0.5-micron SiGe BiCMOS technology, is "fine tuned" for building power amplifiers in wireless applications, while the other new version of silicon-germanium supports integration of passive elements on devices.
Also today, IBM Microelectronics introduced a new wireless chip in its voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) family--the company's first use of copper metal in SiGe processes for wireless chips.
IBM's BiCMOS 5DM (dual-metal) foundry process is "a highly optimized technology for small die sizes and passive elements--including such things as inductors, capacitors, and other elements needed to integrate radios," said Bernard Meyerson, vice president of IBM Communications Research and Development Center in East Fishkill.
The 5DM process can reduce the die size of chips requiring a series of passive elements between 15-to-50%, depending upon the design, according to IBM. The company said a number of passive elements have been improved in the technology, including: resistors with more efficient layouts and higher tolerances; varactors with a higher tuning range that eliminate the need for switch capacitors; metal-insulator-metal (MIM capacitors with higher density; and dual-metal inductors with improved performance. Design tools kits for the 5DM process are available today.
Meanwhile the power amplifier tuned SiGe process, called BiCMOS 5PA, is suited for GSM cellular handset PAs. Design kits for the 5PA process will be available in April.
"These new technologies are derivatives off of existing technologies, and they have different optimization points," Meyerson told SBN. "We have eliminated many features in the existing processes that are not needed for these focused applications."
The first product to be produced on IBM's new SiGe 5DM technology with copper metallurgy process steps is the company's new voltage controlled oscillator. The VCO product's passive elements enable the IC to replace up to 25 discrete components used in hybrid modules, said IBM.
The new silicon-germanium processes are part of IBM's efforts to fan out the use of SiGe and to maintain its huge market share in the technology. IBM pioneered the commercial use of SiGe with the release of the first standard products in 1998 (see Oct. 12, 1998, story).
IBM today a forecast from IC Insights Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., which estimates that SiGe revenues totaled $320 million in 2001 and will grow to $2.7 billion by 2006. The market research firm estimated that IBM's SiGe revenues grew 86% in 2001, giving it about 80% of the 2001 silicon-germanium sales worldwide.