TSMC's 7nm bridges academia and industry in Taiwan

Bryan Chuang, Taipei, DIGITIMES Asia 0


Taiwan's significant wafer foundries, such as TSMC and UMC, and compound semiconductor firms such as Win Semiconductors, play a pivotal role in the industry. The Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC) in Belgium has long been entrusted by Taiwan's Semiconductor Research Institute (TSRI) to produce academic and educational chips. TSMC's 7nm process will soon be available for academic and research use.

While Taiwan's academia can leverage collaborations with IC design companies such as MediaTek to access TSMC's advanced processes—7nm, and even 4nm and 3nm—such opportunities are limited to a few participants. Most professors and students design chips and outsource production with support from the National Science and Technology Council and TSRI.

According to academic sources, TSMC's 7nm process, designated TN7, is a new chip production service that will have only one batch open in the latter half of 2024. Missing this batch means waiting until 2025. Historically, UMC had lengthy turnaround times due to subcontractor operations. However, TSRI noted that UMC has delivered ahead of schedule for the past four batches, ensuring timely publication of professors' and students' research.

The National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) outlines that TSRI's mission is to assist Taiwan's academia and industry in advancing technologies in areas such as silicon-based quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G/B6G mobile communications, electric vehicles, and biomedical sensing. They aim to translate significant academic research into next-generation non-silicon materials, such as compound semiconductors, heterogeneous integration devices, and related circuit integration and development.

Starting in 2024, TSRI will support semiconductor manufacturing technology verification below 10nm, down to the atomic scale. This platform will foster the integration and co-creation of cutting-edge semiconductor materials and process equipment analysis, aiming to cultivate high-level semiconductor talent in Taiwan and promote the technological upgrade and transformation of related industries.