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News | New technologies
Present in connected speakers and GPS microchips, energy efficient FD-SOI technology has become a microelectronics staple in the past three years. Born in Grenoble at CEA, FD-SOI has now established itself on the smartphone market: it's at the core of Google's latest pixel 6 Pro. François Andrieu, an FD-SOI expert, and Eric Mercier, co-leader of the 5G/6G program at CEA, offer explanations.
Eric Mercier : Used up to now for its low energy consumption assets in IoT devices and microcontrollers, " FD-SOI" CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) transistor technology now appeals to mobile phone manufacturers for its radiofrequency (RF) performance, particularly in millimeter-wave high frequencies.
FD-SOI meets 5G requirements, which are now and will in future be leveraging millimeter waves, located in frequency bands above 12 GHz. The antennae operating in these wave bands are small-sized, measuring only a few millimeters, because the wavelengths are short, which makes them highly directive when assembled in a compact network. This directivity makes it possible to increase the effective link between the emitter and the receiver, by maximizing power output. In this kind of antenna network, the overall emitted power corresponds to the sum of the individual powers of each network element, consequently requiring less power, in the range of several dozen milliwatts, which can therefore be associated with an integrated circuit made using FD-SOI technology.
François Andrieu : With millimeter wave frequency bands, FD-SOI technology offers competitive solutions for several RF (radiofrequency) blocks, particularly power amplifiers and low noise amplifiers that constitute antenna networks. Additionally, its good energy efficiency makes it a technology of choice for 5G and future generations of broadband networks. FD-SOI transistors exhibit less parasitic capacitance than the competitor technology (FinFET), used worldwide in fast processors found in telephones and computers, allowing these devices to be operated at higher frequency with better energy efficiency. Above all, this technology offers the ability to co-integrate these high-performance RF blocks with some of the most advanced analog and digital blocks (22 nm-18 nm) on the market in terms of miniaturization, all on the same chip. This makes the manufacturing process competitive and energy efficient.
Eric Mercier : In addition to its competitive performance levels, FD-SOI is proving to be less expensive than its competitor, FinFET, in terms of manufacturing radiofrequency emitters/receivers for 5G/6G systems that operate in the range of millimeter waves (RF front end module type applications). In fact, Google has adopted this technology for its 5G millimeter band emitter-receiver, which is equipping its new generation of Pixel 6 smartphones, launched in October 2021. This radiofrequency component is equipped with 28-nanometer FD-SOI technology made by Samsung licensed to STMicroelectronics.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.