IBM, Peregrine roll new Si-on-sapphire process
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Seeking to gain more traction for its silicon-on-sapphire technology in RF designs, Peregrine Semiconductor Corp. has formed an exclusive joint development and foundry agreement with IBM Corp.
Fast-growing Peregrine (San Diego)--which is looking to file an initial public offering (IPO) in the next 12-to-15 months--has also altered its foundry strategy as part of the major announcement.
Prior to the announcement, Peregrine’s foundry partners included MagnaChip, Oki/Rohm, Sapphicon and UMC. Now, fabless Peregrine has added IBM to the mix for its latest and greatest technology.
As part of the plan, IBM and Peregrine will jointly develop Peregrine’s next-generation, silicon-on-sapphire technology, based on a 180-nm process on 200-mm wafers. Peregrine’s technology, dubbed UltraCMOS, will be manufactured on a foundry basis within IBM’s 200-mm fab in Burlington, Vt.
A form of silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology, silicon-on-sapphire is formed by depositing a thin layer of silicon onto a sapphire wafer. This in turn creates an insulating sapphire substrate, which is said to have advantages over bulk silicon and gallium arsenide (GaAs) in RF applications.
Until now, Peregrine shipped devices based on 0.25-micron technology (and above) on 150-mm substrates. Peregrine refers to the new 180-nm silicon-on-sapphire process as its Step7 technology. The company claims Step7 produces devices that are 50 percent smaller with 100 times better linearity.
The technology is expected to propel a new class of RF devices, including high-power switches and tunable components, said Rodd Novak, chief marketing officer for Peregrine.
With the technology, it also hopes to enter the power amplifier business, thereby competing against Anadigics, RF Micro, Skyworks, TriQuint and others, Novak said. ''Our vision is to develop multi-mode power amps’’ on a single chip, based on silicon-on-sapphire technology, he added
The deal will also enable Peregrine to migrate to the 130- and 90-nm nodes. If it makes good on its promises, the company could become the next RF chip powerhouse.