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 EDACafe Editorial
Roberto Frazzoli
Roberto Frazzoli
Roberto Frazzoli is a contributing editor to EDACafe. His interests as a technology journalist focus on the semiconductor ecosystem in all its aspects. Roberto started covering electronics in 1987. His weekly contribution to EDACafe started in early 2019.

Synopsys to sell Software Integrity Group; Micron to get CHIPS Act funding; 3D solution for RFSOI; recyclable PCBs

May 9th, 2024 by Roberto Frazzoli

An interesting side effect of the so-called “chip war” is that, now, even large news agencies are sometimes delving quite deep into technology topics. News agency Reuters has recently assigned reverse engineering experts to tear down a Huawei phone, to find out who made the chips inside it. The two companies that performed the analysis – iFixit and TechSearch International – found that Huawei’s Pura 70 Pro contains more China-made parts than previous models, highlighting the progress China is making towards technology self-sufficiency. Chinese components found in the high-end phone include a NAND memory that was likely packaged by Huawei’s in-house chip unit HiSilicon, and a Kirin 9010 processor that is likely a slightly improved version of the chip used by Huawei’s Mate 60 series.

Synopsys to sell its Software Integrity Group

After its recent Ansys acquisition, Synopsys is now focusing on EDA by selling its non-EDA division. The company has entered into a definitive agreement with Clearlake Capital Group and Francisco Partners, two global private equity firms, for the sale of its Software Integrity Group business in a transaction with a total value of up to $2.1 billion. Upon completion of the transaction, the business will emerge as a newly independent application security testing software provider. The existing Software Integrity Group management team is expected to lead the new privately held company, whose name has not been announced yet.

Micron to get $6.1 billion CHIPS Act funding

Micron Technology and the Biden-Harris Administration have signed a non-binding Preliminary Memorandum of Terms (PMT) for $6.1 billion in funding under the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act to support planned leading-edge memory manufacturing in Idaho and New York. Construction of the new Boise fab – which will be co-located with Micron’s R&D center – started in October 2023. The Idaho fab is expected to come online and be operational in 2025, with DRAM output starting in 2026. In New York, preliminary design, field studies and permitting applications are underway for the project; construction is expected to begin in 2025, with output starting in 2028.

Foundry updates: UMC, SK keyfoundry

The trend towards 3D packaging also involves silicon-on-insulator chips used in radiofrequency applications. Taiwanese foundry UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation) has announced what it claims is the industry’s first 3D IC solution for RFSOI technology, available on UMC’s 55-nanometer RFSOI platform. According to the company, the stacked silicon technology reduces die size by more than 45% without any degradation of radio frequency performance. Utilizing wafer-to-wafer bonding technology, UMC’s 3D IC solution for RFSOI resolves the common issue of RF interference between stacked dies. This technology addresses the challenge of increased frequency band demands in smartphones in the 5G/6G era, and helps in mobile, IoT, and virtual reality devices with faster data transfer by accommodating more frequency bands in parallel.

SK keyfoundry, an 8-inch pure-play foundry in Korea, has announced that it is offering an enhanced 0.13-micron BCD process for automotive power semiconductors. The process has met the requirements of AEC-Q100’s Grade-0, and is suitable for automotive semiconductors that must withstand temperatures up to 150°C. Also, the enhanced technology offers high-voltage devices up to 120V and implements insulation above 15KV, enabling the design of high-voltage products for use in electric vehicles. In addition, as high-density Flash memory IP can be used in a high-voltage BCD process, the technology is suitable for automotive ICs that require MCU functionality.

Ultrahigh power density on-chip microcapacitors

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have achieved record-high energy and power densities in microcapacitors made with engineered thin films of hafnium oxide and zirconium oxide, using materials and fabrication techniques already widespread in chip manufacturing. The findings, published in the journal Nature, pave the way for advanced on-chip energy storage and power delivery in next-generation electronics. The properties of the resulting devices are record-breaking: compared to the best electrostatic capacitors today, these microcapacitors have nine-times higher energy density and 170-times higher power density (80 mJ-cm-2 and 300 kW-cm-2, respectively).

Researchers find a hole in cloud security

Scientists at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) have discovered a gap in the cloud security mechanisms, the “confidential computing” that protects the processing of sensitive data used by different cloud users. ETH researchers have been able to show that there is a vulnerability in the cloud server hardware that can make it possible to access data stored in the memories of other active cloud users working with the same hardware. The vulnerability opens up via the hypervisor software and the interrupt mechanism, which temporarily disrupts regular computing processes.

Recyclable PCB material

A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has developed a new PCB that performs on par with traditional materials and can be recycled repeatedly with negligible material loss. Researchers used a solvent that transforms a type of vitrimer — a cutting-edge class of sustainable polymers — to a jelly-like substance without damaging it, allowing the solid components to be plucked out for reuse or recycling. The vitrimer jelly can then be repeatedly used to make new, high-quality PCBs, unlike conventional plastics that degrade significantly with each recycling. With these “vPCBs” (vitrimer printed circuit boards), researchers recovered 98% of the vitrimer and 100% of the glass fiber, as well as 91% of the solvent used for recycling.

Acquisitions in the GaN industry

US-based Guerrilla RF has finalized the acquisition of Singapore-based Gallium Semiconductor‘s entire portfolio of GaN power amplifiers and front-end modules. Guerrilla acquired all previously released components as well as new cores under development at Gallium Semiconductor. Additionally, all associated intellectual property has been transferred to Guerrilla as part of this portfolio acquisition. By integrating these assets, the company intends to enhance its efforts to develop and commercialize a new line of GaN devices for wireless infrastructure, military, and satellite communications applications.

San Jose-based Power Integrations has announced an agreement to acquire the assets of Odyssey Semiconductor Technologies (Ithaca, NY), a developer of vertical gallium nitride transistor technology. The acquisition supports the company’s ongoing development roadmap for its proprietary PowiGaN technology, which is featured in many of the company’s product families including InnoSwitch ICs, HiperPFS-5 power-factor-correction ICs and InnoMux-2 family of single-stage, multiple-output ICs.

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