SAN FRANCISCO Researchers from RTI International have developed a platform technology for integrating multiple layers of silicon into three-dimensional integrated circuits. The new technology, based on high-performance infrared focal plane array detectors, promises to dramatically enhance the on-chip signal-processing capabilities of sensor and actuator devices.
The RTI International (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) researchers presented their work at the International Electron Devices Meeting yesterday (Dec. 11).
The high-density 3-D integration technology uses a back-end, circuits-first methodology and is compatible with standard bulk CMOS IC wafers.
In this approach, all processes employed in the stacking of the silicon IC layers and the fabrication of vertical interconnects are conducted at low temperatures (less than 200 degrees C). The bonding of individual device layers is done in either a die-to-die or die-to-wafer configuration, which allows only known-good die to be processed.
Since each die is aligned in a separate bonding event, the accuracy of the alignment is better than what can be achieved in a standard wafer-to-wafer process, say the researchers. The technology is promising for the formation of 3-D interconnects with high aspect ratios, a key feature for compatibility with bulk silicon IC wafers.
The ICs in the separate layers communicate by means of 3-D interconnects insulated and metallized vias etched through the body of the chips.
Potential applications of the technology include high-performance focal plane detector arrays, where the ability to integrate multiple layers of silicon electronics within the footprint of each pixel will open doors to readout circuits whose functionality is dramatically improved, say the researchers.
A test chip's histogram showed that the 3-D 256 x 256 array reaches a 97.5 percent operability level. This proves that the 3-D interconnects can transfer the photon response to the detector pixels with high interoperability and without the introduction of additional noise.
The work was done in conjunction with DRS Infrared Technologies under contract to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and is being applied in a government program to take pictures in outer space.