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Infineon promises faster hybrid chips

Infineon Technologies has developed a new technology to connect and package stacked integrated circuit chips in order to speed up chip performance while reducing costs.

Researchers at the German semiconductor company have developed a soldering method called solid liquid interdiffusion (SOLID), which allows multiple chips to be combined in one package to create a single product.

"In a nutshell, the SOLID technique allows us to increase the complexity of chips so that we can add more functions and applications and do this more cost efficiently," a company spokesman said. "The technology will also play a role in delivering systems that provide greater security."

At present, Infineon is using the technology to develop a prototype smart card controller, expected to be completed in the second half of 2003. Current smart card controller products combine both a logic chip and a memory chip on a single planar surface, limiting memory capacity typically to 32Kbytes. The prototype controller that Infineon is developing based on SOLID technology will have 160Kbytes of nonvolatile memory "or enough to run a version of the Linux operating system software," a spokesman said.

Infineon has yet to decide whether it will license the technology to other manufacturers.

In all semiconductor-based applications, such as mobile phones, multiple chips exchange electronic signals using fine wires laid out precisely on printed circuit boards. The longer the lines between the adjacent chips, the more time an electrical signal takes to travel. This makes design more complex and can slow down performance.

Additionally, the number of possible circuit wires is limited in a tiny space. As chips become more complex, their wiring becomes more difficult and consequently it becomes more expensive to implement applications that require high frequencies, such as communication technology.

With SOLID technology, the tracks between the contacts are much shorter, according to Infineon. A SOLID product can achieve clock rates of up to 200GHz, or 100 times faster than today's fastest desktop PC processors, and thus support more communication lines between the chips in the package.

Compared to existing chip systems, a SOLID product can pack hundreds of times the number of connections into the same space, Infineon said. For instance, a chip that is manufactured with the SOLID process requires up to 50% less space than conventional products with the same functionality on chips arranged side by side.

The new technology is suitable for almost any semiconductor application, from chips for handsets to those for industrial and automotive systems. It can reduce costs for manufacturing existing products by up to 30% through the more effective use of production facilities, the company said.

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