CCPD/FIAP Invited Session

Physics Careers in the Semiconductor Industry

Sponsoring APS units and organizers:

  • Heather Galloway, Southwest Texas State University (for CCPD)
  • Stefan Zollner, Motorola, (for FIAP)

Session Chair: Heather Galloway, Southwest Texas State University

We had five speakers who ranged from an academic to an industrial viewpoint. Attendance ranged during the session from ~50-150 people. Due to the current economic situation, I think that the response and support was reasonable. Below are the speakers and their abstracts. Larry Larson has been asked by ‘The Industrial Physicist’ to contribute an article.

Internship-based degrees in applied physics with microelectronics emphasis
Mark Holtz (Department of Physics, Texas Tech University)

We present details on the initiation and maintenance of the internship-based M.S. degree in physics at Texas Tech University. This program, initiated in 1996, has graduated approximately 30 students. Each student completes an extended internship, at least six months in duration, at a regional microelectronics company. Specialized courses provide the background needed for our students to excel in these companies. We will also discuss new programs at several other universities, and discuss general requirements for successfully setting up similar degree programs. The internship program was initially supported by the National Science Foundation (DMR 9705498), and is now supported fully by sponsoring industries.

Electrical Engineering Preparation for the Semiconductor Industry
Mark E. Law (University of Florida)

As silicon integrated circuit technologies shrink to sub-100nm dimensions, plenty of job opportunities exist for trained physicists. This talk will high light some of the issues faced in shrinking technology, and will cover areas in which physicists can make contributions. Solid State, Materials, and quantum backgrounds can all find a place in the semiconductor industry of the future.

PDF of Presentation

Technologically driven research and education in physics--a golden opportunity for physicists
Toh Ming Lu (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Information age has created an unprecedented opportunity for physics research and education. Physicists can make tremendous contributions to high tech sectors such as computing and communication, energy, and biotech. In this talk, I will discuss how physicists might take advantage of this opportunity to expand our horizon. I will also present the challenges (mainly philosophical and attitudes) we need to overcome to fully exploit the opportunity.

PDF of Presentation

Physics Careers in the Semiconductor Industry: OK, I'm in, now what?
Larry Larson (SEMATECH)

The role of the physicist working in the Semiconductor Industry differs significantly from those working in a purely academic setting. This talk will give a perspective on these differences by examining these roles in some detail.

The first detail is simply ``Why are you employed by your institution?" Physicists in the Semiconductor industry are, in the most basic sense, employed to develop or sustain processes, equipment or devices in order to produce chips for sale. This very basic point colors the goals, objectives and the reward structure for the industrial physicist. I will use examples of mundane and complex physics applications from development work at SEMATECH to compare the industrial approach to my perception of an academic approach.

Another important attribute of the industrial career is the strong influence of timeliness on the usefulness of our results. This leads to an emphasis of the working approach on attacking problems as a team, to the strong availability of resources, but also to the aspect that a project can fall away from the critical path and be cancelled. Some of these effects will be described with examples from the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors and also from SEMATECH.

All in all, working as a physicist in the semiconductor industry is an exciting and rewarding career. Be aware though, that the industry is dynamic and intensive be ready for a ride!

PDF of Presentation

A Phycisist's View of CMOS Semiconductor Manufacturing: What it takes to Produce a Product
Brad Melnick (Motorola - SPS)

Scaling of CMOS semiconductor technology over the past several decades has progressed at a rate of ~0.7x reduction in feature size per technology node. Raw gate density has increased from \sim100k gates/mm^2 at the 180nm technology node to a projected 700k gates/mm^2 at the 65nm technology node schedule. Some estimates indicate that the number of transistors manufactured world wide per year now exceeds the number of grains of rice grown per year (1). The increase in transistor density and the introduction of new materials has allowed for increased functionality on chip. Consumer products are shipping today that contain true system on chip (SoC) technology. SoC combines digital and analog CMOS, embedded memories, and passive components monolithically in a single die at a cost of just a few dollars per chip. In order to achieve a competitive cost structure for today's CMOS semiconductor products, companies must manufacture large volumes at very low defect densities.

This talk will discuss how CMOS semiconductor technologies are developed and manufactured in order to meet the criteria discussed above. Five basic technology development phases will be reviewed: Concept and Feasibility, Module Level (Short Flow) Integration, Full Flow Integration, Prototyping, and Volume Manufacturing. The unique requirements of each phase will be covered along with the success criteria that must be met before the technology can transition into the next phase. Emphasis will be placed on the role the physicist within each phase.

(1) R. Blewer, AMC 2002 Short Course I, Advanced Interconnect - Approaches and Trends, Sept. 30, 2002.