October 4, 2021By Gary Dagastine From smartphones, wearable devices and automotive electronics to technology for schools and hospitals, digital technologies now are pervasive in virtually all aspects of modern life. They have brought unprecedented change to how we work, learn, travel, access healthcare and otherwise live our lives. Semiconductors, as the building blocks of digital technologies, enable users to create innovative products which are more functional and energy-efficient, and less resource-intensive, than ever before. As a result, the health, safety and prosperity of individuals and society is tightly tied to feature-rich semiconductor technologies. GlobalFoundries (GF) is one of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers, with advanced manufacturing facilities in the United States, Germany, and Singapore. GF delivers the feature-rich process technology solutions that are pervasive in our lives and vital to the innovations leading to a greener, more sustainable, better connected, and healthier world. A Critical Resource for Humanity Companies worldwide are striving to develop cleaner, more efficient and more environmentally preferable technologies for smart mobile devices; automotive systems; computing and artificial intelligence (AI); the communications and data center infrastructures; and a multitude of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, among others. While these applications differ greatly in their functional requirements, what they all have in common is a need for chips that not only provide the high performance and specialized features required, but do so in an efficient, reliable and resource-sensitive manner. GF offers an array of feature-rich, high-performance and power-efficient semiconductor platforms and related services that help customers build such systems. GF’s differentiated technology platforms such as RF-SOI (silicon-on-insulator), FD-SOI and silicon photonics – coupled with design enablement and application-specific features like analog/RF, embedded memory and advanced packaging – create solutions tailored to customers’ specific needs and markets. A quick look at GF’s three core markets shows how GF’s existing platforms and development work are aimed at helping customers achieve their sustainability goals, with power efficiency running through all of the units as a key objective. In each target market, GF semiconductor platforms are accelerating innovation and leading to a positive impact on humanity. More Efficient Technologies for Mobile and Wireless Nearly every wireless call, text, email, social media post, and streaming video passes through chips manufactured by GF. The company’s leading RF platforms were vital to making possible widespread telework and remote education, and are unlocking the power of 5G and future 6G networks. Peter Gammel, VP and CTO GF’s Mobile and Wireless Infrastructure Business Unit (MWI), said that GF’s platforms for imaging, displays, security and power management in mobile and wireless systems are good examples of the company’s commitment to help customers build products in a more sustainable fashion. “For imaging functions, the more you can do to reduce the amount of data needing to be processed, the faster an operation can be carried out and the less power required. By going from an analog imaging architecture to a digital one, the potential exists to reduce the amount of data by 100,000x. We are investigating how to do that using GF’s 22FDX™ platform because its ability to toggle between high-performance and energy-efficient operation offers unique advantages,” he said. “The 22FDX platform will make possible stacked image signal processors for higher performance, and low-power, low-leakage and ultra-small memory bitcells. 22FDX will also lead to reduced power consumption in sensors by enabling compute-near-data and imaging-to-action (rather than to pixels) architectures, and by reducing interface power consumption.” In displays, Gammel said the 22FDX platform will also enable display architectures that keep the 100,000:1 data compressed as much as possible for as long as possible for higher efficiency, until it is expanded to match the human visual system. He also described how GF’s technologies can be used for microLEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), an emerging flat-panel display technology. “MicroLEDs can be enabled by GF’s GaN (gallium nitride) technology, currently in development, integrated with an 22FDX backplane. The combination will enable low-leakage, low-power operation, small size using stacking solutions, and co-design of analog and digital circuit functions to achieve the best compute/power/brightness tradeoff,” he said. For enhanced security for mobile/wireless systems to protect user privacy, Gammel said that GF’s 55 BCD Lite® platform makes possible the integration of silicon LEDs and SPAD (Single-photon Avalanche Diode) sensors on the same chip. This may lead to quantum random-number-generating, low-power, ultra-small form-factor mobile quantum cryptography solutions to keep data safer and more secure. GF is developing these in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). GF’s 55 BCD Lite platform also enables highly efficient power management circuits that lead to longer battery lifetimes in mobile/wireless devices, reducing the amount of batteries sent to landfills. Novel Automotive Connectivity, Electrification, Safety and Automation From radars for assisted driving, to connectivity, to boosting the efficiency of electric vehicles, GF semiconductor technology enables automotive customers to produce vehicles that are safer and more efficient than ever before. In addition to accelerating more energy-efficient smart factories and industrial IoT applications, GF semiconductor platforms are enabling customers to develop and bring to market increasingly complex IoT devices that are more innovative, more energy-efficient, and can run longer between charging. Pirooz Parvarandeh, VP and CTO of GF’s Automotive, Industrial and Multi-market (AIM) strategic business unit, said that GF’s BCD technologies offer state-of-the-art figures of merit leading to increased efficiency in the supply and distribution of power in automotive, smart factory and data center applications. “This performance reduces power loss and dissipated heat, enabling customers to reduce the size/weight of their products and to save on cooling costs and energy,” he said. GF’s 22FDX platform, meanwhile, enables industry-leading automotive radar solutions that bring many advantages to people and to the environment. “The 22FDX platform allows customers to build radar systems offering lower power for a given level of performance, along with lower overall vehicle energy consumption and increased automotive imaging range and resolution,” Parvarandeh said. “This performance enables higher levels of car safety, potentially saving lives and reducing the number of collisions. The societal value of reducing death and injury is incalculable.” The GF automotive team is also pursuing unique technologies optimized for battery management systems. In vehicles, these systems optimize the use of stored energy in the batteries, which leads to more power-efficient driving. Additionally, GF technologies are used for making the actuators in vehicles more energy efficient. Battery management systems will enable systems such as battery-operated vehicles, machinery and robots that operate longer on a charge and offer more functionality than at present. “We are also pursuing ultra-low-power technologies for a range of other battery-operated equipment for IoT, compute/control, human-machine interfaces and other applications,” Parvarandeh said. Longer-term, the GF team is focused on a variety of other sustainable technologies, including platforms optimized for LED driver circuits, with the goal of reducing the amount of power used in lighting applications in homes, cities, and vehicles. as are energy-harvesting solutions that draw power from heat, vibration and other environmental inputs, for remote applications where batteries are impractical, such as IoT sensors. These energy-harvesting solutions can prolong battery life – requiring less energy use – and hold the potential to become significant drivers of efficiency as the number of IoT devices continue to rapidly increase. Energy Efficiency for Computing, Data Centers GF semiconductor platforms are directly addressing the known “power bottleneck” hampering the explosive growth of AI, and enabling customers to meet the power efficiency targets demanded by the industry and society. GF is also the industry leader in next-generation silicon photonics technology, which is positioned to significantly reduce the unsustainable growth of electricity needed to power data centers. Ted Letavic, Vice President and CTO of GF’s Computing and Wireless Infrastructure (CWI) business unit, highlighted energy efficiency for computing and data center applications as a key sustainability goal for GF. Letavic pointed to GF’s multi-faceted efforts to increase energy efficiency in data centers, a huge and fast-growing consumer of the world’s electric power in the aggregate. “We’re using GF’s 12LP+ FinFET and 22FDX platforms with low voltage logic and memory to develop AI accelerators that can drastically reduce the amount of power required for data-centric workloads within data centers. Additionally, GF is applying the 55 BCD Lite and 22FDX platforms to address next-generation power delivery systems for heterogeneous compute solutions. Letavic also said GF is working on other solutions for data centers that will enable customers to offer more sustainable products, and to take the next step on the sustainability curve. One example is the 45SPCLO silicon photonics technology platform, which uses photons instead of electrons to move data rapidly and efficiently from chip-to-chip and across datacenter networks. Photonics enables the reconfiguration of data centers to increase total overall energy efficiency of data transport. GF is enabling new ultra-low-power photonic compute paradigms, Letavic said, including wafer-scale photonic neural network processors and photonic quantum computation. Both paradigms offer substantial energy reduction per compute task, he said, and fuel the scale-out of traditional compute systems. Solutions to Deliver Sustainability GF’s differentiated semiconductor platforms offer compelling advantages to customers and to society at large. Furthermore, our investments in sustainable manufacturing practices provide tangible evidence of our commitment to making the world a better place. Click here to read more about GF’s sustainable manufacturing and operations.