Project DOUST (Design and Optimization of Ultra-Small Transistors) is initiated with the express motivation of constructing a framework that segments the design and optimization of ultra-small transistors.  The purpose of the conceptual framework is to provide an efficient and cost-effective aid to new technology development and transistor design and optimization.

This project has started as a joint project between Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. (CSM) in the context of the 0.18-µm CMOS process technology to be developed by CSM.

Three Major Goals

There are three major goals for Project DOUST.  For immediate interests, it is aimed at predicting the 0.18-µm technology to be developed based on a TCAD-calibrated VWF technology from an existing 0.25-µm technology.  To a larger extent, a framework will be constructed to aid ultra-small transistor design and optimization by providing “process windows” for a given set of device performance specifications.  Ultimately, this project will be a first step towards the establishment of a “virtual fab foundry” (VFF) to bridge the gap between the wafer fab and the design house.

Specific objectives as set out by the joint project are listed below:

  1. Construct a framework for the TCAD approach to new technology development and transistor design and optimization.
  2. Calibrate process and device simulators based on an existing process (0.25 µm) so that the developed models can be used in new processes (0.18 µm), which are to be verified with experimental devices.
  3. Determine process windows for the given device performance targets through Design of Experiments (DOE) to bracket the final optimal design.
  4. Formulate simplified analytic/empirical equations based on the full TCAD simulation to give a first-order approximation on the device performance in relation to process variables.
  5. Extract circuit parameters from “virtual wafer” experiments, from which a complete TCAD environment will be established.
  6. Investigate specific process and device phenomena through advanced physical modeling and simulation.
  7. Provide a training ground for professional scientists and engineers in semiconductor processes and devices.
Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework is based on the process database and the device database constructed from the TCAD simulations.  Suppose, for example, there are q process targets, each one is a function of one or more of the p process variables; and there are v device targets, each one is a function of one or more of the u device variables.  In many cases, a process target is also a device variable (e.g., tox, Leff, xj).

The conceptual framework will be able to link the device targets to the process variables.  This means that two types of information (plots) can be obtained: (1) Design curve in which one or more device targets can be plotted against one major process variable and, optionally, with a secondary process variable as a parameter for comparison.  (2) Process box in which contours of one or more device targets can be plotted against two major process variables.  The design curves and the process boxes can be very useful in aiding technology development and multi-target transistor optimization.

Methodology of Implementation

Project DOUST is to be implemented with three tasks in parallel: calibration, framework, and physics, with different emphasis for each task.

Calibration work aims at the accuracy of the simulator models and the relevance of the simulation results.  Physics study mainly concerns with the validity of the process/device models being used, since we are pushing to the limit of our current understanding.  For the framework design, however, the focus is mainly on the efficiency and generalization.  Of course, the usefulness of the developed framework depends on how well we calibrate the models (accuracy) and how well we understand the device physics (validity).

Implementation of the above three tasks can be carried out in parallel, with close interaction among them.  Everything will be based on the 0.25-µm CMOS process being developed at CSM.  Process simulator will be calibrated to the SIMS measurements, and device simulator will be calibrated to the measured I–V and C–V characteristics.  An up-to-date calibrated nominal flow will be made available for other tasks.  Device-model validation will be studied with different structures and biasing conditions, and the results will be fed back to the other two modules.  Research on device engineering (e.g., channel doping and drain engineering) will also be conducted.  A framework will be constructed by running extensive process and device splits to build the process and device databases.  Channel-length dependent parameters will be extracted from the database to provide a guide for technology scaling.  Compact models for the target–variable dependencies will be developed.  The information will be shared among the three modules through the process/device database under the TMA WorkBench (TWB).

Eventually, given a more accurately calibrated model, or a new process recipe, the framework should be able to generate a new database, the process windows to bracket the final optimum design, and the compact models as an efficient design guide, all within the region of validity of the models used.

Overall Planning

There are three major modules in the overall planning for Project DOUST: Virtual Wafer Fab (VWF), Real Wafer Fab (RWF), and Compact Modeling (CM).  It is centered at the core TCAD environment -- process and device simulations.  The VWF module forms a self-contained system, from process specification to circuit parameter extraction, which is in parallel with the RWF module.  Comparison of circuit performance between the VWF and RWF modules can be made at the transistor level or at the circuit level through SPICE circuit simulation.  The RWF module provides experimental data to be used in process/device simulator calibration as well as verification of the developed technology and the compact model.  The CM module depends on the TCAD results, and it provides a first attempt at formulating higher-level modeling of process–device–circuit inter-dependencies from a lower-level model.

Virtual Fab Foundry

When we look at the current status of the EDA industry as well as the chip design and fabrication practice, three trends can be observed.  First, design house and wafer fab are relatively independent of each other, but there is an increasing need for coupling and information exchange between the two.  Secondly, most existing ECAD tools do not take into consideration of the real (gate and interconnect) delay information from the actual transistor structure and layout, and it is increasingly important to consider these effects at the early stage of a design.  Finally, although the TCAD approach to transistor design and technology development is becoming popular, it is mainly restricted to R&D groups and semiconductor companies, and there is a barrier for the general CAD tool users since use of these TCAD tools requires advanced knowledge of process and device physics.  In fact, TCAD vendors are already beginning to provide professional services to customers for calibration and efficient use of their tools.

The idea of the “virtual fab foundry” is to bridge the gap between the design house and wafer fab, to link ECAD tools with TCAD information, and to provide services to the CAD tool users.  Project DOUST is a first step towards the establishment of such a foundry.  Take the local design house, Tritech, and the wafer fab, CSM, as an example.  Suppose a Tritech’s design is to be fabricated by CSM.  Based on the robust database the virtual fab foundry has implemented and calibrated to the CSM’s technology, a set of SPICE and interconnect delay parameters could be generated and provided to Tritech even before the design is fabricated.  Even designs using new technologies, which have not been developed, can be predicted.  Other important information, such as statistical SPICE parameters due to process variations, can also be generated from the virtual fab foundry.

Ultimately, successful implementation of the VWF technology could lead to the general services to the chip design and fabrication industry with the idea of internet-based TCAD.

Summary: Strategic Factors

In summary, the proposed Project DOUST has the following strategic factors:

  1. Technological:  It demonstrates the impact of the virtual wafer fab technology on new process development, which will be in the same way as the EDA that has shaped the microelectronics industry.
  2. Economical:  It supplements expensive iterative experimentation of VLSI technology development by virtual wafer fabrication and virtual device characterization.
  3. Industrial:  It contributes to the local wafer fab industry by collaboration with the world-leading academia on industrial-relevant applications.
  4. Educational:  It provides a training ground for professional scientists and engineers in advanced device and process technologies and, in particular, for the engineering curriculum at NTU and the local wafer industry in Singapore.
  5. Professional:  It provides the most advanced research topics in deep-submicron device physics and process technology.
  6. Commercial:  It represents a novel idea of the Virtual Fab Foundry, which is a first attempt at bridging the gap between chip design and chip fabrication, and it has potential commercial applications in ECAD based on TCAD as well as professional services.