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Interview: Leti CEO Laurent Malier on FD-SOI and more

Posted on January 23, 2014
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CEA-Leti is one of the world’s most important research institutes for micro- and nano-electronics. Key enabler to the greater SOI-based community, they’re the quiet mega-partner behind everything from Soitec’s Smart CutTM technology for SOI wafer manufacturing to the design and chip manufacturing technology in today’s FD-SOI revolution. Leti’s work always reaches far into our industry’s future.  ASN had a chance to catch up with CEO Laurent Malier to see what’s up and what’s next.

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Laurent Malier, CEO of CEA-Leti and President of the Association of Carnot Institutes

Advanced Substrate News: For those who don’t know Leti well, can you give us a general introduction, and tell us how you work with industry?

Laurent Malier: Leti focuses on micro- and nano-technologies and their applications. Our goal is to create innovation in those domains and transfer it to industry. We are part of the CEA, a French government-funded technological research organization. Seventy-five percent our 250M€ budget comes from industrial contracts.

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Since we cover everything from silicon to applications, Leti addresses microelectronics, embedded software and applications in consumer, automotive, health-care, environment, space, safety and security, wireless and smart-devices markets.

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Leti has worked with more than 365 industrial partners worldwide through one-to-one  collaborations, collaborative projects and common labs. We provide access to advanced technology platforms (we have 8,000m² of cleanroom space) and offer broad scientific and technological support.

ASN: Can you give us a bit of history on Leti’s role in SOI in general, and FD-SOI in particular?

LM: Leti has been involved in SOI since the early days with Leti researcher Michel Bruel’s original patent on the Smart Cut™ technology for manufacturing SOI wafers. That was in 1991, and the technology was licensed to Soitec in 1992. Leti’s active involvement in advanced on-oxide substrates development has continued since then. We have also been a pioneer in SOI-focused compact modeling. A Leti spin-off company called Soisic was created in 2001 and later bought by ARM to offer SOI-based design.

Last December, Leti announced Leti-UTSOI2, the first complete compact model for FDSOI. It enlarges the physically described bias range for designers and is available in all major SPICE simulators.

For wireless markets, Leti has taken part in the development of RF-SOI for 130 and 65nm from high-resistivity wafers and process integration to models.

Leti’s current SOI knowledge starts with the substrate, embraces the device and extends to the full design platform with TCAD support, compact modeling and design and conception.

Our strong focus on SOI devices and technology has produced original breakthroughs, ranging from the demonstration of interest in thin BOX substrate to multi-Vt design, and benefits from built-in power-performance trade-off tuning capabilities.

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(Full PDF available here.)

ASN: Can you tell us more about Leti’s current and future contributions to FD-SOI?

LM: Fostered by Grenoble’s unique ecosystem, where substrate suppliers are located near IDMs and design companies, Leti’s work spans the whole range of activities related to SOI. Leti’s current contribution to FD-SOI covers the full spectrum: materials, process, integration, device, modeling, architecture and systems.

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Leti is located in the heart of the Minatec innovation campus in Grenoble. Minatec was founded by CEA Grenoble, INPG (Grenoble Institute of Technology) and local government agencies. The project combines a physical research campus with a network of companies, researchers and engineering schools. As such, Minatec is home to 2,400 researchers, 1,200 students, and 600 business and technology transfer experts on a 20-hectare (about 50-acre) state-of-the-art campus with 10,000 m² of clean room space. An international hub for micro and nanotechnology research, the campus is unlike any other R&D facility in Europe. (Photo: courtesy Minatec)

Combining research and manufacturing experience, from a digital point of view, Leti supports 28nm FD-SOI at STMicroelectronics with an on-site team of more than 60 people. Leti has been part of the IBM Alliance based in Albany, NY since 2008. We’ve played a key role in 14nm FD-SOI development, with teams based in Albany, Grenoble and Crolles.

And more than anybody, Leti is now shaping 10nm FD-SOI. That’s what we do: we are always working well ahead of the industry!

In summary, Leti serves the global SOI ecosystem.

ASN: Can you give us a peak at Leti’s work on future devices, structures, substrates and so forth?

LM: With respect to10nm FD-SOI, Leti is currently addressing two main challenges. The first is how to implement performance boosters; and then how to optimize the smart use of back biasing to keep on leveraging SOI technology’s big competitive advantage in energy efficiency.

And what will be the next device? Definitely it will have to enable energy-efficient circuits. The race to lower overall energy consumption at no performance penalty has begun. Within this context, Leti is actively preparing the for future by evaluating potential scaled SOI architectures. Trigate, nanowires and stacked nanowires are options envisioned to pursue SOI CMOS-based scaling. Leti is also thoroughly investigating new device concepts to combine better performance with more energy-efficient hybrid circuits.

Leveraging our SOI expertise, Leti is paving the way to enable the 3D monolithic integration where layers of transistors are stacked with a lithographic alignment resolution: it allows connecting active areas at the transistor level. This revolutionary way of thinking about next nodes enables less consumption with better performance and is a unique technological tool to enable III-V and high mobility materials hybrid integration.

ASN: Will we see more Leti spin-offs?

LM: Most definitely. One of Leti’s goals is to foster the creation of startups that leverage our technological innovations. That creates jobs and value in the local economy, and opportunities for the electronics industry, globally. Leti is one of the world’s leading research institutions for startup creation: Soitec, Sofradir, ULIS, Movea, APIX Technology and Aledia are some of the companies that Leti has launched over the years.

We certainly intend to step up the pace. Last year, our recently revamped startup program launched Wavelens, which delivers compact MEMS-based optical solutions for the mobile phone market, and Primo1D, the ‘E-Thread®’, company. And ISKN, one of our currently incubated companies, had one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns last year. It raised close to $350,000, almost 10 times its original goal, for iSketchnote, its smart iPad cover. So I think we can say there will be more Leti startups in the months and years to come.