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IBM claims high-k advantage over "The Competition"

Posted on: 07-May-2007

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John E. Kelly III, a senior vice president at IBM’s systems and technology group, had some interesting things to about Intel last week at an IBM event in San Francisco to introduce the company’s air gap technology.

Kelly’s argument is that while both Intel and IBM will have high-k and metal gates going forward, IBM brings embedded DRAM to the party at the 45-nm node, followed by air gaps, vertical interconnects, and finally some form of FinFET technology – essentially outflanking Intel.

Kelly and other IBM executives said IBM will have its high-k and metal gate solution in “some products” next year. While acknowledging that Intel may have some advantage by an early insertion of high-k, Kelly said  “the competition” (presumably meaning Intel) has chosen to a Damascene approach to high-k gate formation. (Intel, beyond saying that it has used two different metals for its gate electrodes at the 45-nm node, has said nothing about whether it uses a Damascene structure or not, a spokesman said.)

Kelly said IBM has implemented its high-k/metal gate structure in a gate-first approach that will give it cost and yield and scalability advantages over a Damascene approach.

Mukesh Khare, the high-k/metal gate project manager at IBM, said IBM’s high-k/metal gate solution will deliver a 15 Angstrom inversion thickness -- a 35 percent reduction in inversion thickness, compared with today’s nitrided oxide -- at mobilities equivalent to SiO2.

He showed a slide with an 11 Angstrom interface layer and a 29 Angstrom hafnium-based oxide layer. The solution, Khare said, “takes gate leakage completely out” of the power consumption picture.

IBM’s high-k/metal gate is on top of an SOI substrate, and involves creating a hard mask, an etch step, deposition of the high-k dielectric, metals, and polysilicon, followed by more etching. “Essentially, we are replacing today’s oxide with high-k and metal gates,” Khare said.

The competition, Khare said, employs a Damascene approach in which it is “more difficult to fill the conformal layers as we scale. IBM’s approach has very few process steps and is scalable from 45-nm to 32-nm and beyond.”

With R&D costs rising, Kelly said the eight corporate partners participating in the Fishkill alliance form the only major competition to Intel. “There are two and one-half players: IBM, Intel, and the foundries.”

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