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Date: 17/12/2022

6th IEEE ICEE: Plethora of research beyond silicon in semiconductor devices

In recent times, I never been to an electronics engineering event in Bangalore with such an industry-relevant research content presented by academia as well as some industry researchers in the broad spectrum of electronics devices and materials. I am talking about the IEEE organised 4-day event' International Conference of Emerging Electronics (ICEE) concluded on 14th of Dec 2022 in Bangalore, India. Though this 6th event was quite a semiconductor centered, but swinged all the way to biomaterial, metamaterial and any new materials for computing, sensing, converting, switching, transceiving, amplifying, filtering, oscillating, displaying and measuring electrical, optical and the in between Tera Hertz signals and waves.

Along with the coverage of devices and materials, ICEE 2022 also had good number of sessions on quantum computing, device/performance simulation, heterogeneous integration, Neuromorphic computing, AI/ML at device level, and solar PV technologies. The event started with tutorial sessions covering topics such as Tera Hertz, Semiconductor Device Simulation, Neuromorphic computing, Biosensors, and Photovoltaics. I could only attend the last two days of the event. Mr. Sameer Pendharkar, Vice President of technology development, Texas Instruments, in his keynote shared to the audience on how the improvement in semiconductor technology is enabling the efficiency of energy use. The innovation in design, architecture and the new semiconductor materials continue to improve the energy conversion efficiency significantly. Precision analog, high power density handling, high-speed/high bandwidth datalinks, high density analog RF CMOS for radar/lidar are fueling automotive and industrial electronics areas. He also explained how the industry 4.0 technology is enabling reconfigurable factories with flexible industry footprint. It was followed by closely related another energy efficiency focused keynote by Dr. Primit Parekh, Co-founder and President of Transphorm Inc. Primith delved into how Gallium Nitride (GaN) is playing key role in increasing the performance and efficiency of power supplies in applications ranging from desktop-computer's switch mode power supply to electric bikes and AC/DC adapters of mobile devices. Both the speakers also shared their views on India's possibility of building a volume semiconductor manufacturing eco. I'll cover that in a separate article.

On the last day of the event, Balajee Sowrirajan, Vice President Samsung Electronics and Managing Director Samsung Semiconductor R&D India presented to the audience on how the factors such as connectivity, sensor, data and intelligence are shaping the world of intelligence of things. He pointed out the criticality of 5G in applications targeting wide range of markets. This was followed by a keynote on solar PV value chain, where the presenter Dr. Milind Kulkarni, President- PV manufacturing, Reliance Industries explained the various reasons making solar PV an affordable renewable energy source. He said solar value chain is an adaptation of mature semiconductor value chain. He also shared the latest innovations happening in the solar PV domain including efficiency improvement, new material research, process and the cost reduction.

There were 200+ invited talks, 120+ platform/oral presentations and 100+ poster sessions, I tried to attend maximum of these technical sessions shuttling across conference rooms. Many interesting sessions were overlapping in time. With in my available time, I could multiplex as much as I can, here's my brief observation after attending two days of sessions.

Commercially speaking:
The participation was truly international with all the way from deepblue IBM to emerging new material tech companies such as Transphorm. There were stalls from very-needy companies/service providers in semiconductor device manufacturing such as LABINDIA, Oxford Instruments, Semicontech Gases (SG), Park Systems, Applied' Picosun, El Camino, Raith Nanofabrication, EdgeTech Scientific, Zepto Microwave, and Indo French High Tech Equipments.

Global leading semiconductor related companies such as Globalfoundries, Riken Keiki, FormFactor, Micron, Samsung, Lam Research, Nexperia, Alpha and Omega Semiconductor, Bruker, Higgs Boson, Veeco, KAS Technologies, IR Tech, Tesscorn, Accurion, Aixtron,Samco, MCUBE Technologies, Globetek, Leybold, Plasma-Therm, Amcoss Systems, and CDT have sponsored this event and were actively participated in the event .

Brief technology highlights include:

Moore's Law to progress for some more years with few missing links haunting researchers developing angstrom scale chips. Dr. Rama Divakaruni, Distinguished Engineer, IBM Research said to me for deep node chip making recipe, the missing items can be materials, processes, cost reduction, economics of scale and even mass-markets. He said IBM took five years of research in developing 2 nm chips, which they could achieve by spending billions of dollars on research alone. Prof. Subramanian Iyer, Distinguished Chancellorís Professor, University of California, a world renown expert in heterogeneous integration finds lot of benefits can be achieved by going chiplet based 3-D integration rather than monolithic scaling. Well, end of Moore's Law opens lot more roads for research. As shown in the picture below "Semiconductor Development is a Marathon, not a Sprint".

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The technical sessions on 2-D materials covered from Graphene to Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) to some superconducting materials. It was like focusing on achieving zero resistance to all the way to infinite resistance through various ways of control including electrical, optical, physical/geometrical ways to any new way of controlling the electron and photon mobility behaviour and also the way they interact with other materials.

In Neuromorphic computing sessions; emerging memory cells including ReRAM, analog computing, synapse and neuron equivalent devices, programmable silicon and also NAND flash semiconductor memories are used to create a non-bio material based brain like computing device. In the sensing world, Tera-wave opens a galore of opportunities as the researchers progress in precise control of emission, switching as well as sensing. The picture below explain the trend better.

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After seeing couple of presentations on silicon photonics, it can be observed silicon waveguides to replace copper and optical high-speed data interconnect for on-chip and inter-chip high speed communication.

Though I could not attend the keynote on RFSOI technology by Dr. Julio Costa, VP RF, Technology and Innovation, GlobalFoundries. I caught up with him to get updates about FDSOI (Fully Depleted Silicon on Insulator). He said FDSOI is progressing well offering many advantages over bulk. GlobalFoundries can achieve the integration on 22 nm FDSOI to the level of what 7 nm bulk can provide. Globalfoundries planning to get into 12 nm in near future, which can provide 3-4 nm like bulk process density.

The progress made in solar PV cells clearly indicates there's going to be ample renewable energy in the world in the coming decades. The deeper the semiconductor research progress, it is benefitting a lot to Solar PV research.

There are plenty of research avenues already opened beyond-silicon and in silicon to achieve high human like computing and sensing.

Along with the spontaneous flow of cutting edge research-content from technical-sessions, plenary key notes, Q&As, and talking to the attendees whomever I met, there was also continuous flow of tasty food throughout the session. Thanks to the Prof. Mayank Srivatsava, General Chair and the rest of the organizing committee for excellent conduction of the event.

For a growth driven semiconductor' product-focused techpreneur, the money and the business-sense matters a lot including attending and conducting this event. Here below picture presented by Dr. Madhur Bobde, CTO of Alpha Omega Semiconductor in the industry session titled "Is India Ready for High Volume Semiconductor Manufacturing?" tells how long, wide and deep is the valley of death compared to services' business, where Indian entrepreneurs are good at.

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I will try to go deep into many interesting sessions I have attended and write separate articles.

Author: Srinivasa Reddy N
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