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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Materials & technologies projects > New hybrid polymers revolutionise production of low-cost electro/optical devices
Graphic element New hybrid polymers revolutionise production of low-cost electro/optical devices
    27-03-2002
 

Research funded by the European Commission has enabled a large European consortium, made up from industry, universities and research institutes, to develop demonstrator and prototype high density interconnect printed circuit boards based on ORMOCER® hybrid inorganic-organic polymers. These offer suppliers and consumers much more affordable, high performance technology solutions that can be made cost-effectively in large volumes. This represents a breakthrough in the way very sophisticated optical, electronic, electro-optical and opto-electronic devices are fabricated and should give Europe an important advantage in a number of key world markets, such as telecommunications, information processing and multimedia.

The worldwide electronics industry is developing and growing very rapidly in areas such as information processing and multimedia. There is a constant demand for new high performance electronic, opto-electronic and optical products that can be mass-produced at lower and lower cost.

Materials breakthrough
 
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Initially, a seven-partner consortium working on the DONDOMCM (development of new dielectrical and optical materials, testing and comparison with existing polymers and application in multi-chip-modules) project in the Brite-Euram II industrial and materials technologies programme responded to this challenge by researching and developing materials which could be suited to a range of electrical and opto/electrical applications.

ORMOCER® hybrid polymers, developed at the Fraunhofer-Institute for Silicate Research (Fhh-ISC) in Würzburg, were the result of this hunt for appropriate materials and how they might be applied to multi-chip modules (MCMs). At the end of the DONDOMCM project in 1998, the consortium demonstrated the world's smallest Pentium MCM-L/D and showed for the first time how electrical and optical interconnects could be integrated in the same substrate using the same class of ORMOCER® materials.

The 15 partners co-operating on the larger, three-year Brite-Euram III DONDODEM project, which ran until the end of December 2001, have developed this work further and focused mainly on the technology's application potential.

 
Organically crosslinked silicon-oxygen network
 
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An ORMOCER® polymer is made up from a silicon-oxygen network, modified by introducing chemically cross-linkable organic components. End-product properties can be tuned precisely by chemical design to application requirements. Dissolving the resin in organic solvents produces a range of lacquers that can easily be applied as thin layers on to inexpensive polymeric printed circuit board substrates. The lacquers can be cured at temperatures as low as 120º to 170ºC, and withstand subsequent processes, such as wave soldering, at up to 280ºC. Competitive materials require curing temperatures of 250º to 350ºC.

"Under those high temperatures, all standard polymer circuit boards melt," claims DONDODEM co-ordinator, Dr Michael Popall of the Fhg-ISC, which with his group is also responsible for ORMOCER® design, modification and synthesis. "Our materials need only low cure temperatures but they still have high thermal stability up to 300°C and you can use large area processing which means a drastic reduction in price, much cheaper than handling expensive silicon or ceramic substrates."

According to Dr Popall, consortium members Ericsson and ACREO have calculated that if electro-optical modules are produced on large area polymer boards using ORMOCER®-based technology, the manufacturing cost could be reduced by a factor of 100.

Not surprisingly, Ericsson and ACREO have been joined by computer company Bull in France, circuit board manufacturer Norrköping (formerly part of Ericsson) in Sweden, as well as institutes such as the Technical University of Berlin, in the development and testing of ORMOCER®-based boards.

 
Low cost circuit boards
 
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"Bluetooth wireless systems require low-cost chip boards, which this technology can deliver," says Dr Popall. "For example, Norrköping produces large printed circuit boards for computers and uses a curtain coating process that passes the material as a liquid waterfall over the substrate board at rates of up to 5 m/s. The faster the speed, the thinner the layer. From here, the substrates are sent to ACREO, which now has a unique large area technology machine - a state-of-the-art, laser-based high throughput lithography system, which can handle up to 25 0.61 by 0.61 m panels per hour."

The Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), defence electronics firm Thales Airborne Systems in France and microelectronics production and test device specialist Suss MicroTec in Germany as well as universities and institutes such as Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, Fraunhofer-Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (FhI-IOF) and Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena in Germany are also working on micro-optical applications and totally new combined replication and photolithography technology based on ORMOCER®s, the latter will enable, for example, volume production of micro optical elements on a wafer scale.

Complete monitor modules for vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs) and laser-to-fibre couplers will be produced at CSEM spin-off companies and a Finnish company in 2002. Fhg-IOF and Thales have produced prototypes of fan-out and taper devices (oe-connectors). Suss MicroTec has developed a modified version of the MA6 mask aligner for combined replication and photolithography using ORMOCER®s.

"This can be used to produce lens technology cheaply, allowing mask-aligning equipment in older chip-fabs for example to be used for replication of micro lenses - or diffractive structures replacing large lenses - that are much more compatible with thin film multilayer technology, standard in microelectronics," says Dr Popall.

"The production of a fibre holder and coupling prism into waveguides within one parallel step is an enormous advantage in price and compactness. The mask aligning of the holder and replication of the prism is done at the same time. This is totally new and outstanding, and perfect in timing as the market for micro-optical elements is growing each year by 100%."

Micro Resist Technology, a photo-resist chemical specialist in Berlin, stepped in just before the end of the project. Based on know-how transferred from Fhg-ISC, it will be in a position to market some of these new hybrid polymers by mid 2002.

 
Support improved flexibility
 

According to Dr Popall, the European Commission was not just supportive with its funding for the project, but excellent co-operation with the Research DG GROWTH Programme project officer allowed the partners to be much more flexible in the way they carried out their development work.

"The Commission gave us the freedom we needed to get results, so we could, for example, bond in sessions away from our offices and laboratories. This formed a very important part of the team creation process and helped us focus much more effectively on the task in hand so none of the partners involved in the project were made to feel less important than the other and become demotivated," says Dr Popall. "This is very different from the routine of traditional project management."

 
 
Materials breakthrough
Organically crosslinked silicon-oxygen network
Low cost circuit boards
Support improved flexibility
   

Key data

EU-funded research in the area of the New materials & production technologies generic action of the GROWTH programme is set to radically reduce the cost of producing integrated electronic and optical components.

Projects

DONDODEM:
Demonstration (and prototypes) of new dielectric and optical materials and process technologies for low-cost electrical and/or optical packaging (BRPR980638)

     

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