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Electronics Research at Sandia

Fact Sheet

Sandia is unique among the national laboratories in having design and production oversight responsibility for all electronic components in Department of Energy systems. To meet its mission requirements, Sandia has developed electronics capabilities and programs that embody the entire electronic-component realization process. These broad-based activities also provide a focus for the Department of Energy's response to industry-generated technology road maps such as those prepared by the Semiconductor Industry Association and the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association.

In response to the SIA's directly stated needs, Sandia established the Center for Microelectronics Technologies (CMT) to assist the industry with dual-use projects. This Center was created by combining the existing Microelectronics Development Laboratory (MDL) with a major donation from IBM of equipment and technology valued at more than $63 million. The 74,000-square-foot MDL includes 30,000 square feet of clean-room space with 12,500 square feet of Class 1 clean space in 22 separate clean rooms. The IBM equipment and technology donation provides a state-of-the-art submicrometer silicon-integrated-circuit R&D line supporting the total semiconductor development cycle.

The CMT is being accessed by industry through a five-year, $100 million cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the US semiconductor industry consortium SEMATECH, as well as through CRADAs with individual companies. Programs include the Semiconductor Equipment Technology Center (SETEC) and the Contamination-Free Manufacturing Research Center, both joint projects with SEMATECH.

The CMT also conducts joint projection x-ray lithography and projection electron beam lithography programs with industrial partners to develop the next generation of processes and processing equipment. The center is also the site for developing environmentally conscious manufacturing and environmentally safe and healthful procedures for semiconductor manufacturing.

The MDL's equipment supports the total semiconductor development cycle, including research, design, fabrication, test, prototype delivery, and qualification. These facilities also support "smart" micromachining and intelligent sensor and display research ,and directly impact electronics packaging and assembly.

The Center for Contamination-Free Manufacturing Research conducts experiments to advance semiconductor manufacturing concepts and use equipment to reduce contamination that limits the yield of integrated-circuit manufacturing processes. The center conducts and coordinates research in cost-effective, contamination-free manufacturing technologies involving features as small as 0.2 micrometers and removal of defects as small as 0.01 micrometers (the size of bacteria). Research focuses on the effects of chemical particulates and electrostatic, thermal, and electromagnetic (including light) radiation contamination on circuit yield and performance.

Another Sandia program, the Electronic Quality/Reliability Center (EQRC) performs cooperative research and development to understand why devices fail and to develop new reliability and failure analysis techniques. EQRC has an extensive interdisciplinary capability in characterization, benchmarking, assessment, modeling, and simulation. Sandia's reliability engineering program focuses on ultra-reliability in electronic components for nuclear weapons, and those techniques are synergistic with the capabilities and needs of commercial electronics manufacturers.

Compound semiconductors also has been an important R&D field for Sandia. Its Center for Compound Semiconductor Science and Technology pioneered the strained-layer-superlattice (SLS) material and such SLS-based devices as pseudomorphic, high-electron-mobility transistors (P-HEMTs) and circuits, as well as such semiconductor photonic devices as vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs). In this laboratory Sandia engineers demonstrated the advantages of strained-layer superlattices, which today are responsible for the highest-speed, highest efficiency, and longest-lived semiconductor lasers, transistors, and integrated circuits available in the world.

The center supports the full range of theoretical and experimental activities for solid-state physics, materials science, crystal growth, device and circuit design, and fabrication to develop the next generation of compound semiconductor electronic and optoelectronic devices. Facilities include extensive molecular beam epitaxy and metal-organic chemical vapor deposition crystal growth capabilities, ion implantation, and electron-beam lithography in a 6,000-square-foot, Class 100 clean room with state-of-the-art Sandia's program for sensor development employs more than 100 technical professionals who extend the state of the art in sensor technologies for manufacturing and other applications. Sandia has developed novel families of sensors that sense a range of chemical, thermal, electrical, physical, and mechanical properties for defense and commercial applications, including monitoring environmentally hazardous chemicals, and controlling production processes. The suite of Sandia sensor technologies is being continuously refined and augmented with related Sandia microelectronic, material science, signal processing, packaging, and subsystem technologies to expand the range of applications.

These sensor technologies have significant dual-use interest for manufacturing-oriented applications, particularly for the semiconductor industry, the automotive industry, the machine tool industry, the textiles industry, and the petroleum industry. Sandia's novel transducer developments, based on ultrasonic, fiber-optic and solid-state technologies, have solved characterization, monitoring, and control problems for improved manufacturing yield, part functionality, quality, and environmental compliance.

Sandia's Advanced Manufacturing Processes Laboratory is a facility for advanced prototype manufacturing housed in a 100,000-square-foot building featuring equipment for hybrid microcircuits, thin films, printed circuits, ceramics, plastics, and rapid prototyping. The Laboratory coordinates its activities with the Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Laboratory at Sandia's California facility, which is chartered to focus on reliability and quality of manufacturing processes through understanding and qualification of manufacturing processes. Particular emphasis is given to automation and robotic handling through complementary programs in both software and robotic hardware.

Along with its design and production oversight responsibility for all electronic components in DOE systems, Sandia has the corresponding responsibility for development, maintenance, and evaluation of electronic packaging technologies. Sandia's packaging capabilities cover the full spectrum of packaging-related technologies, from fundamental research to prototyping and evaluation.

Sandia is working on electronic packaging cooperative research with the auto industry for under-the-hood electronics, with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences for advanced printed circuit board interconnect technology, and with approximately 50 semiconductor and electronics companies on projects ranging from supplying test chips for electronic packaging qualification to large-scale cooperative research and development with industrial consortia.

Sandia also is doing research in the emerging field of micromechanics, which uses microelectronic fabrication techniques to build ultra-miniature mechanical structures with micrometer-dimensioned feature sizes. The small size, low power requirements, and ruggedness of micromachined elements are highly attractive in modern systems and applications.

Enormous markets for micromachined components are likely in the automotive, biomedical, aerospace, and robotics industries, as well as in environmental monitoring and restoration. The same families of micromachined structures are important for such Defense Programs applications as ultra-rugged, ultra-miniature clock structures for use in weapon systems and a micromechanically fabricated version of a stronglink switch.

Sandia recently developed a micromachine that solves some of the major problems limiting the practical applications. Developed under DOE Defense Program funding, it is the world's first demonstration of a completely batch-fabricated engine capable of delivering power to a mechanical load through a rotating output gear in either clockwise or counterclockwise directions. Rotational speeds to several hundred thousand revolutions per minute have been demonstrated.

Optoelectronics, the use of visible-light energy for functions normally performed by electrical energy, is another emerging technology in which Sandia is doing research. Because of their inherent immunity to electromagnetic interference and their tolerance to the effects of ionizing radiation and intense pulses of electromagnetic radiation, optoelectronic devices offer unique advantages over electronics devices for a wide variety of applications in nuclear weapons.

Optoelectronic devices also are expected to be the hardware for information highways in the 21st century. Similar to the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association for integrated circuit technology, the U.S. Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA) is creating a technology roadmap to chart a course of common action. Advances in four of five critical optoelectronics areas depend upon two key competencies -- optoelectronic materials and optoelectronic manufacturing , especially processes and production equipment. These are areas of particular strength at Sandia.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy.
Media Contact
Chris Miller

Last modified: August 6, 1997

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