The use of cobalt by Intel for contact metallization at 10 nm could emerge as a differentiator in the advanced semiconductor manufacturing battleground. Globalfoundries at 7 nm continues to use the copper/low-k dielectrics that have been used by the semiconductor industry for the past several nodes.
In an interview with EE Times following the presentation, Patton and Basanth Jagannathan, a distinguished member of Globalfoundries' technical staff who presented the 7-nm process technology, said that sticking with copper/low-k provides reliability benefits, reducing complexity and yield risk.
"The copper system still has a lot of juice left in it," said Jagannathan.
Another clear difference between the process technologies presented is Globalfoundries' use of double-patterning for back-end metallization. In his presentation, Jagannathan argued that using SAQP offers density advantages but also severely hampers flexibility that customers depend on.
"This is a foundry technology," said Jagannathan. "It caters to all sorts of designs."
Patton told EE Times that sticking with double-patterning for the back end "doesn't mean we aren't dense. It's not just all about pitches. We get to the density target a little bit of a different way."
In the same advanced platform technologies in which the Intel 10-nm and Globalfoundries 7-nm technologies were presented, Intel also offered a separate paper on its 22-nm FinFET low-power technology that also captured Hutcheson's attention. This process — billed as ideal for mobile and RF applications — is illustrative of a new trend in which foundry vendors are going back and optimizing older process nodes, he said. "That really is a new trend," added Hutcheson.
Following the process technology session, Patton was one of three people to receive an IEEE Award. Patton, who said he first attended IEDM as a student 35 years ago, was recognized with the IEEE Frederik Philips Award, awarded for industry influence and leadership in the development of leading-edge microelectronics technology and collaborative research.
— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.