July 11, 2012 -- Day 1 of Semicon West 2012 opened under brighter skies than we had yesterday, when speakers at the SEMI/Gartner market symposium from Portland, of all places, made fun of the gloomy skies over my beloved San Francisco. I don’t think our skies will ever compare to Portland -- and I mean that in a good way (for San Francisco...). The Semicon show floor is more spacious than it was a decade ago, with wider aisles, more presentation stages, and fewer pieces of large equipment. And for the first time in several years, Novellus is not doing its own thing in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which still sports its permanent (so far...) Novellus Theater sign.
CEA Leti sponsored an early evening symposium at the W Hotel for almost 200 attendees. Among the fastest computers in the world is an installation in Berkeley that runs up to 16 PFLOPS/sec, requiring 8MW of power. Linear projections for a 1 EFLOP/sec system in the planning phase would require an unmanageable 600MW. Power management is becoming an industry in its own right. Several global data centers have been announced in Scandinavia to allow the climate to contribute to the cooling effort. I anticipate a shift for Santa from toys to virtual games in cloud computing.
Maud Vinet, one of Leti’s resident researchers at U Albany, gave the current status of their work in fully depleted SOI (FDSOI) device architecture, in which they have been engaged for 15 years since the spin out of SOITEC. This is being extended below 20nm, still in a planar device configuration.
A pair of talks reviewed Leti’s involvement in TSV and related 2.5D and 3D integration. One slide was shown with Leti’s first TSV demonstration in 1988, suggesting once again that nothing is new if you know who has the original photographs. While via-middle processing is the current norm, Leti believes that via-last with permanent bonding can be used to bring via diameter down to 3µm, though it may be limited to IDMs and memory applications due to its interdependence with design.
Integration of photonics on chip is another focus area for Leti, motivated by the fact that as much as 80% of the bottlenecks that the zettabytes (zetta = 1021) of data encounter every year occur within the data centers themselves. Since we’re expected to be into the yottabyte (1024) range by 2020, replacing electrons and copper with photons is an idea whose time is too close for comfort. We’re also going to need more prefixes for 1027 and beyond. The world runs on a lot of data, though I maintain that Fox News remains a notable exception.
The presentations were followed by hors d’oeuvres and a champagne bar stocked with -- and this is the ironic part -- California champagne. I sense a lost branding opportunity for our colleagues from Grenoble.
Best Semicon show give away ever: my sole nominee in this category is the Schott Glass shot glass, a very stylish piece of barware with a generous 2 ounce pour. Kudos!!
Read more about CEA-Leti's talks in digital media editor Meredith Courtemanche's The energy behind energy at SEMICON West