X-Fab Partners with IHP on BiCMOS Technology

March 30, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

X-FAB Silicon Foundries and the Leibniz Institute for High-Performance Microelectronics (IHP) have announced the start of a new partnership last week.

The collaboration will see the integration of IHP’s active devices into line (BEOL) of X-FAB’s 130 nm XR013 RF-SOI process featuring Cu and thick-Cu-based metallization.

The combination of these technologies will allow the firms to experiment with new wireless systems concepts.


The IHP building in the East Brandenburg Technology Park. Image used courtesy of IHP.
The IHP building in the East Brandenburg Technology Park. Image used courtesy of IHP.


IHP: Developing Silicon-based Systems

The Institute focuses on research and development in the fields of silicon-based systems, together with the highest-frequency integrated circuits, and technologies for wireless and broadband communication. 

Since IHP’s main focus is business-oriented, many of its inventions are related to the telecommunications, semiconductor, and automotive industries, together with aerospace, telemedicine, and automation applications.

A member of the Leibniz Association, the Institute is a non-profit that currently counts 300 employees.

IHP is funded by the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union, the Federal State of Brandenburg, and the German Federal Government.


X-Fab: Designing Analog/mixed-signal Semiconductors

Firstly established in 1992, X-Fab specializes in mixed-signal semiconductor applications.

The firm manufactures wafers for a variety of industries, including automotive, industrial, consumer, and medical, among others.

X-Fab’s modular complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) can process geometries ranging from 1.0μm to 130 nm, as well as special silicon on insulator (SOI) and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) long-lifetime processes. 

The company currently owns six manufacturing sites in Germany, France, Malaysia, and the USA, and reportedly features a combined capacity of about 100,000 eight-inch equivalent wafer starts per month.


The X-Fab headquarters in Erfurt, Germany. Image courtesy of X-Fab
The X-Fab headquarters in Erfurt, Germany. Image courtesy of X-Fab


A Technical Collaboration 

In addition to the collaboration on XR013 RF-SOI, IHP and X-Fab will also work together on advanced SiGe Bipolar CMOS (BiCMOS) technologies based on IHP’s SiGe heterojunction bipolar transistors.

For context, Bipolar BiCMOS refers to a semiconductor technology integrating two separate semiconductor technologies - bipolar junction transistor and CMOS gate - in a single integrated circuit device.

Bipolar transistors traditionally offer high speed and gain, which are critical for high-frequency analog sections, while CMOS technology is particularly suitable for the construction of simple, low-power logic gates.

“SiGe BiCMOS remains an attractive prospect for a number of wireless applications, including 5G, because it enables the integration of high-performance RF on a silicon-based platform,” explained Greg U’Ren, Director of RF Technology at X-FAB. 

“IHP and X-FAB both recognize the huge potential here”, he added. ”The technologies that we are working on are the fruit of a synergistic relationship that leverages the respective strengths of each partner.” 

The BiCMOS devices offer fT/fmax figures of up to 250/340 GHz for SG13S-Cu and up to 300/500 GHz for SG13G2-Cu, as well as 3 µm thick low-loss copper, interconnects to boost RF performance levels.

“We are very excited to cooperate with X-FAB being one of Europe’s leading semiconductor manufacturers,” commented Gerhard Kahmen, Scientific Director at IHP.

“This partnership enables us to transfer first-class research into commercial applications laying the ground for next generation high-performance RF systems, such as 400G data communication, 60-300 GHz radars, and sub-THz imaging,” he concluded.

For more information about the new partnership, you can follow this link here.