DoD to invest up to $170 million in rad-hard foundry company

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is planning to invest up to $170 million in foundry company SkyWater Technology for a multi-phase project to enhance microelectronics capabilities for the DoD and the Strategic Radiation Hardened (Rad-Hard) market. SkyWater will expand its Trusted Foundry facility to add a clean room area and supporting infrastructure to enable this and other complementary technologies.

The initial phase is funded at $80 million, and SkyWater will leverage this investment to develop a new 90 nm rad-hard electronics production capability to complement its existing 90 nm rad-tolerant offering. In addition, the DoD will fund SkyWater to add copper (Cu) dual-damascene interconnect technology to the facility which marks a significant advancement for the company’s mixed-signal and interposer offerings. Future phases of the effort include options for more advanced microelectronics capabilities.

SkyWater’s expanded rad-hard process will be based on PDSOI (partially depleted silicon on insulator) technology and will enhance reliability of critical microelectronic devices in harsh conditions such as space and military field deployments. This enhancement will enable SkyWater to extend new offerings for its aerospace and defense customers, ensuring manufacturing excellence and high efficiency for this chip category. Additionally, with SkyWater’s focus on commercial markets, this gives the company the ability to address non-defense related opportunities for hardened electronics such as commercial space operations, medical imaging, and other applications in extreme environments.

The copper interconnect option at SkyWater increases IC (integrated circuit) performance with lower resistance and higher speed and interconnect density by exploiting the intrinsic electrical conductivity advantages of copper as compared to aluminum. This benefits mixed-signal technologies through higher density logic circuits and reduced losses in analog/RF circuits, improving system performance and efficiency.

“We are very pleased to expand our support of DoD objectives with this new Strategic Rad-Hard foundry offering while also extending commercialization capabilities for related technologies,” said Dr. Brad Ferguson, SkyWater Chief Technology Officer, in a statement.

Ferguson added, “The addition of copper interconnect represents an important material processing capability that SkyWater needs to support node scaling to 65 nm and 45 nm and aligns with our customers’ technology roadmaps. Also, by entering the copper interposer market, we can help narrow the existing gap in North America for advanced packaging solutions and increase the breadth of our technology offerings.”