A new generation of microcontrollers: Jumping ahead to 40-nm process technology - part 1

September 20, 2012 // By Hideto Hidaka, Ph.D., Renesas
More applications for automotive microcontrollers (MCUs) emerge practically every day. Until recently, most of these chips were used to implement and enhance a vehicle’s added-value features. That is no longer the case, however. Today these devices are absolutely essential components in all basic functions: driving, steering, and stopping. Part 1 of this 2-part article describes the chip technoogy as the enabler for new functions.

MCUs today  are the heart of many automotive features. For example, automotive MCUs implement safety features, make possible environmental friendliness, and provide convenience, comfort, connectivity and entertainment for drivers and passengers. For that reason, it is not unusual for a typical mid-priced new car to contain hundreds of MCUs spanning a range of processing and communication capabilities.

Going forward, even larger numbers of embeddable MCUs will be needed to meet the growing number of standard and optional electronically controlled capabilities required by regulators and desired by car buyers. These design requirements will necessitate chips with greater functionality.

Flash-memory manufacturing technologies are critical to microcontroller (MCU) design. Renesas has become the first in the industry to develop a 40-nm generation production process for MCU-internal flash memory. By jumping directly from today's 90-nm generation process all the way down to a 40-nm one, we have leapfrogged the entire 65-nm processing generation to enable new devices with unprecedented features and capabilities. In this story Dr. Hideto Hidaka, General Manager of our Embedded Memory Core Development Division, Technology Development Unit, describes the new breakthrough technology, its development background, and its likely impact on our products and the industry.

Providing the fast-access flash memory required by high-performance MCUs

As the control capabilities of embedded systems become increasingly beneficial and sophisticated, today’s consumers are seeking more than just greater convenience, better ease of use, and high reliability in their new cars and other major purchases. They are also demanding functional safety, product security, and networking capabilities, among other features. To meet these needs, system engineers are seeking advanced microcontrollers (MCUs) that deliver fast operation, offer broad support for peripheral functions, and can accommodate large-scale and powerful built-in programs.

High-performance MCUs therefore must include large internal flash memories for storing complex control algorithms and application code. Being a world-leading MCU maker, Renesas has a continuing goal of achieving ever-greater on-chip flash capacities while keeping MCU costs down.

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