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DARPA to combine indium phosphide with silicon ICs

The U.S. organisation aims to bridge compound semiconductors with silicon integrated circuits. This move hopes to enable fab production of high-performance microsystems

High-performance microsystems are vital for a wide variety of Department of Defence (DoD) systems that provide U.S. war fighters in communications, sensing and electronic warfare.

Current fabrication technology limits the types of materials and devices that can be integrated together, forcing circuit designers to make compromises when selecting devices for an integrated microsystem.

DARPA’s Diverse Accessible Heterogeneous Integration (DAHI) program is launching the DAHI Foundry Technology effort to advance novel methods for combining a variety of devices and materials onto a single silicon chip.

Thomas Lee, office director at DARPA Microsystems Technology Office says, “Enabling the ability to ‘mix and match’ a wide variety of devices and materials on a common silicon substrate would allow circuit designers to select the best device for each function within their designs. This integration would provide DoD systems with the benefits of a variety of devices and materials integrated in close proximity on a single chip, minimising the performance limitations caused by physical separation among devices.”

This effort also seeks to enable complex signal-processing and self-correction architectures to be brought to bear. The DAHI Foundry Technology project hopes to establish a foundry capability for the production of chips using a wide range of heterogeneously integrated devices. 

“DARPA anticipates bringing the compound semiconductor and silicon integrated circuit (IC) communities together for new ways to integrate components onto a single silicon wafer,” adds Sanjay Raman, DARPA program manager. “Such convergence would enable foundry-style production of high-performance microsystems, leveraging today’s silicon IC manufacturing base.”

DAHI builds on the DARPA Compound Semiconductor Materials on Silicon (COSMOS) program, which is focused on InP HBT integration with silicon. COSMOS is now one of the DAHI program thrusts, along with Electronic-Photonic Heterogeneous Integration (E-PHI, which kicked off in November, 2011) and this new DAHI Foundry Technology effort.
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