STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications, has begun working with research partners to develop a pilot line for next-generation MEMS devices augmented with advanced technologies such as piezoelectric or magnetic materials and 3D packaging.
The project was launched by the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council (ENIAC) Joint Undertaking (JU), a public-private partnership in nanoelectronics.
In coordinating the EUR 28m, 30-month Lab4MEMS project, ST is working with universities, research institutions and technology businesses across nine European countries. The project benefits from ST's MEMS facilities in France, Italy and Malta to establish a complete set of manufacturing competencies for next-generation devices, spanning design and fabrication to test and packaging.
With over 800 MEMS-related patents, more than three billion devices shipped and extensive in-house production capabilities currently producing more than 4 million MEMS devices per day, ST is ideally placed to lead the Lab4MEMS research into next-generation devices. The project will develop technologies such as Piezoelectric (PZT) thin films to enhance current pure-silicon MEMS, enabling improvements such as larger displacement, higher sensing functionality and greater energy density. These are needed to build smart sensors, actuators, micro pumps and energy harvesters meeting the demands of future data-storage, ink-jet, healthcare, automotive, industrial-control and smart-building applications, as well as consumer applications such as smartphones and navigation devices.
The project will also develop advanced packaging technologies and vertical interconnections using flip-chip, through-silicon vias and through-mold vias, enabling 3D-integrated devices for applications such as body area sensors and remote monitoring. A key target is to perfect a PZT deposition process compatible with mass production, and integrate it into complex MEMS processes to enable innovative actuators and sensors on System-On-Chip industrial products.
Lab4MEMS is one of the Key Enabling Technologies (KET) Pilot-Line projects contracted by the ENIAC JU to develop technologies and application areas with substantial societal impact. "The ENIAC JU research agenda has synergies with ST's commitment to improving quality of life through technology," said Roberto Zafalon, European Programs Manager, R&D and Public Affairs, STMicroelectronics. "Lab4MEMS is an important project that will benefit consortium members and stakeholders, including ENIAC member states. Ultimately, we expect the results to translate into long-term prosperity and valuable knowledge-based employment opportunities."
The ENIAC JU is a public-private partnership involving ENIAC member states, the European Union, and the Association for European Nanoelectronics Activities (AENEAS). It is currently contributing some EUR 1.8bn towards the costs of R&D projects, which it selects through a competitive process assessing responses to its Calls for Proposals. The Lab4MEMS project, coordinated by ST, was selected in 2012 and work began in January 2013.