EU project to take capacitors off the PCB

A pan-European research project aims to cut the size of electronics by building many of the capacitors needed to make systems work directly onto the chips they support rather than on the circuit board.

Seventeen companies and research institutes in the semiconductor and automotive sector are collaborating in MaxCaps, a project focusing on materials for next generation capacitors and memories.

The members of the MaxCaps research project believe it will be possible to reduce the number of discrete capacitors currently mounted on a printed circuit board (PCB) by up to 30 percent, potentially cutting the space required by PCB-mounted discrete capacitors by about a half.

In a project that will last until mid-2011, the partners will look for alternatives to the silicon dioxide and silicon nitride materials currently used as dielectrics in chip manufacturing to make better decoupling capacitors. MaxCaps targets at the development of new isolating materials with a high dielectric constant of at least 50 and the processes needed to deposit them.

The German partners in the project – Aixtron AG, Continental AG, IHP - Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics / Leibniz Institut fuer innovative Mikroelektronik, R3T GmbH, and Infineon – will demonstrate their research results with a capacitor network for an automobile transmission control unit. The extreme ambient conditions generally encountered in cars with typical temperature cycles from -40 °C to 125 °C, strong vibrations, and high rates of acceleration will help assess the capabilities of the new materials.

Companies, universities and research facilities in Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Finland, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands are working on the MaxCaps project within the framework of the European MEDEA+ Program and the IKT 2020 Program of the German Federal Government.

The MaxCaps research project is funded to €2.75 million by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The 17 research partners are makers of chemicals and deposition equipment, semiconductor manufacturers, system suppliers to the automotive industry, research institutes, and universities: Air Liquide (France), Aixtron (Germany), Analog Devices (Ireland), ASMI (Belgium, France, Finland), Bronkhorst High-Tech B.V. (Netherlands), CEA-LETI (France), Continental (Germany), IHP - Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics / Leibniz Institut fuer innovative Mikroelektronik (Germany), IMEC (Belgium), Infineon Technologies (Germany), NXP (Netherlands, Belgium), Oxford Instruments (UK), R3T (Germany), SAFC Hightech (UK), STMicroelectronics (France), Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands), Tyndall National Institute (Ireland), and the University of Helsinki (Finland).

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