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3 April, 2018 - 16:51 By Tony Quested

Arm and PragmatIC in smart packaging superchip drive

A new type of highly flexible ‘superchips’ are being developed in a three-way UK partnership involving Cambridge technology front runners Arm and PragmatIC.

The first market being targeted – smart packaging – will be worth almost $8 billion in three years and there are many others that are similarly lucrative.

Joining the celebrated Cambridge duo in the initiative is Ilika, whose UK headquarters is in Southampton but which is influential in the US, Japan, China and Europe; it specialises in rapidly developing novel thin-film materials and electronics devices.

The partners, backed by £600k funding from Innovate UK, are accelerating ultra-thin and flexible semiconductor technology for mass market applications.

The main objective of the 18-month collaboration is to deliver novel P-type metal-oxide semiconductor (PMOS) circuit technology that can significantly enhance the characteristics of PragmatIC’s CMOS designs.

The project focuses on investigating the operating parameters of PMOS, using Ilika’s high throughput thin-film techniques which are proven for rapid identification and screening of functional thin-film materials. 

The initial phase of the project is intended to demonstrate the innovative thin film transistor performance, which is to be followed by scale-up and transfer of the material to deposition processes in a production environment.

Ultra low-power and ultra low-cost flexible electronics provide the opportunity to add functionality to many items, as well as extending proven applications such as RFID and NFC into mass-market use cases that were previously prohibited by the cost of traditional silicon integrated circuits (ICs). 

The first application for these flexible chips (FlexICs) is the smart packaging market which is predicted to grow at CAGR of eight per cent to a projected value of $7.8 billion by 2021, according to Smithers Pira.

The collaboration intends to develop technology that can potentially accelerate the progression of FlexICs along their own Moore’s Law, with higher integration, lower power and costs, which will produce FlexICs suitable for many more market segments including applications for advanced authentication and security applications.

Dr Richard Price, PragmatIC CTO, said: “This collaboration will build on our previous work under Innovate UK’s COSMOS project. By partnering with Ilika and Arm we look forward to augmenting our technology roadmap and enabling the development of future FlexICs.”

Ilika CEO Graeme Purdy added: “The collaboration is a strong fit with our technology capability in rapidly developing novel thin-film materials and devices. 

“A successful outcome would enable the collaboration partners to address large global markets in this disruptive sector.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Richard Price of PragmatIC

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