Lincoln Lab transfers rad-hard IC process to industry

June 26, 2020 //By Julien Happich
integrated circuit process
MIT's Lincoln Laboratory has developed a unique process for making integrated circuits resistant to damage and malfunction caused by extreme radiation levels such as those found in space and at high altitudes on Earth.

This fabrication capability, the 90-nanometer fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) process, is now being transferred to microchip manufacturer SkyWater Technology, which will use it to produce radiation-hardened, or rad-hard, electronics.

Lincoln Laboratory began working on fully depleted silicon-on-insulator technology in the mid-1990s under sponsorship of the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). As the size of transistors shrank and the number that could be packed onto a silicon chip grew, fully depleted technology could help manufacturers enhance their chips' energy efficiency and performance. In the ensuing years, variants of the laboratory's baseline FDSOI technology were optimized for operation under specialized conditions, such as radio frequency range, extreme low power, and for cryogenic, high-temperature, and extreme radiation environments.

The extreme-radiation capability is the basis of the current technology transfer to SkyWater Technology. It was developed with initial sponsorship from the Defence Threat Reduction Agency and more recently with support from the Office of the Secretary of Defence through the Trusted and Assured Microelectronics (T&AM) program, with additional funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

This technology transfer is associated with an investment for a strategic manufacturing capability in radiation-hardened microelectronics that the Department of Defense (DoD) T&AM program is making at SkyWater, which is a trusted, DoD-accredited pure play foundry.

The T&AM program is developing enhanced sources of microelectronics for the DoD's unique needs. The T&AM program seeks to collaborate with industry and key laboratory partners to provide sustainable, assured technology solutions for national security and defence. The SkyWater investment, announced in October 2019, includes up to $170 million to enhance microelectronics capabilities for the DoD and the rad-hard market.

This rad-hard fabrication capability will complement SkyWater's existing 90-nanometer rad-tolerant production capability. In addition to supporting DoD needs, this transfer will also help SkyWater address non-defence-related opportunities for rad-hard electronics, such as commercial space operations and medical imaging applications.

Lincoln Laboratory - www.ll.mit.edu


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