The resolution of today's leading-edge image sensors is continuously increasing, while demand is high for the overall reduction of the camera-module footprint, particularly in consumer markets. This means the necessary development of smaller individual pixel sizes, while maintaining pixel sensitivity to produce high-quality images. Backside illumination is a key enabling technology to meet this challenge in the development of next-generation image sensors.
The agreement between the two companies includes the licensing by Soitec to ST of the Smart Stacking bonding technology for the manufacturing of backside-illumination sensors on 300 mm wafers. This technology, developed by Soitec's Tracit business unit, leverages molecular bonding, and mechanical, as well as chemical thinning. ST will develop a new generation of image sensors based on its advanced derivative-CMOS process technology at 65 nm and beyond, at its 300 mm facility in Crolles, France. In combination with ST's advanced wafer-level manufacturing capabilities, the Smart Stacking technology will enable ST to increase its leadership in developing and supplying high-performance image sensors for mobile consumer products.
"Backside illumination technology is a key ingredient in the small-pixel, high-image-quality race for the development of leading-edge image sensors," said Eric Aussedat, Group Vice President and General Manager, Imaging Division, STMicroelectronics. "Partnering with Soitec will help quickly deploy the Smart Stacking technology into ST's camera products. This agreement will accelerate the development of advanced and superior cost-competitive image-sensor processes, and further confirms the Grenoble region as a world-class center of expertise for advanced CMOS imaging technologies."
"We are very pleased that STMicroelectronics has chosen our Smart Stacking technology for their BSI product," said Andre-Jacques Auberton-Herve, chairman and president of the Soitec Group. "This technology developed by our Tracit business unit, supports fast implementation of advanced processes involving substrate engineering and 3D integration. We are glad to support ST's commitment to innovation for the benefit of their customers."
STMicroelectronics is a global leader in developing and delivering semiconductor solutions across the spectrum of microelectronics applications. An unrivalled combination of silicon and system expertise, manufacturing strength, Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio and strategic partners positions the company at the forefront of System-on-Chip (SoC) technology and its products play a key role in enabling today's convergence markets. The company's shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, on Euronext Paris and on the Milan Stock Exchange. In 2008, the company's net revenues were $9.84 billion.
Soitec is the world's leading supplier of engineered substrates for advanced microelectronics. The Group produces a wide range of advanced materials, especially silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers based on its Smart Cut technology -- the first high-volume application for this proprietary technology. SOI is currently seen as the platform of the future, paving the way to higher-performance, faster, and more economical chips. Soitec currently produces over 80% of SOI wafers. Headquartered at Bernin in France, with two high-volume production units on site, Soitec also has offices in the US, Japan, and Taiwan, and a new production site is in the process of customer qualification in Singapore. Two other business units : Picogiga International (Les Ulis) and Tracit Technologies (Bernin). Picogiga delivers advanced substrates solutions, including III-V epiwafers and gallium nitride (GaN) wafers, to the compound material world for the manufacture of high-frequency electronics and other optoelectronic devices. Tracit, on the other hand, provides thin-film layer transfer technologies used to manufacture engineered substrates for power ICs and microsystems, as well as generic circuit transfer technology, Smart Stacking for applications such as image sensors and 3D integration. Shares for the Soitec Group are listed on Euronext Paris.