ATHENIS IC technology platform enables energy efficiency in harshest automotive environments

July 11, 2011 // By Paul Buckley
The EU FP7 project ATHENIS (Automotive Tested High Voltage Embedded Non Volatile Memory Integrated System On Chip) has for the first time demonstrated a manufacturing technology platform for IC operation for the combination of harshest environmental conditions known in the automotive industry which includes full reverse polarity capability at the low cost of CMOS, application voltages up to 120 V, currents up to 10 A, temperatures up to 200°C, embedded non-volatile memory, chip-level ESD up to >8 kV HBM, and high logic gate densities.

Currently more than 20% of the value of each conventional (ICE) car already comes from embedded electronics. This percentage will further increase for hybrid (HEV) and fully electrical vehicles (FEV). Keeping costs and space for additional functionality low requires integration of low voltage and high voltage devices and embedded memory on a single System-on-Chip (SoC). Increasing energy efficiency of vehicles also requires placing ICs in harsh environments e.g. near batteries, motors, or alternators while keeping costs low in order to ensure broad market adoption.

The capabilities of the technology platform were demonstrated by a novel “flexible” alternator regulator IC enabling a new generation of alternators with 1-2% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions for ICEs and HEVs.

The consortium led by austriamicrosystems (AT) included Valeo Powertrain and Electrical Systems (FR), Cavendish Kinetics (NL,UK), Fraunhofer IISB (DE), TU Vienna (AT), University of Ferrara (IT), MASER Engineering (NL) and Fondazione Bruno Kessler (IT) as partners, all of them leaders in their respective areas of expertise.

The ATHENIS technology platform was established by combining HVCMOS technology from austriamicrosystems with MEMS-based “Nanomech” embedded non-volatile memory technology from Cavendish Kinetics. System specifications and verification including validation of operation up to 200C in a retrofitted commercial car was contributed by Valeo Powertrain and Electrical Systems. Development of novel reliability, simulation, characterization and testing methods as well as new ESD and device concepts were performed by the other partners. The resulting technological advances of ATHENIS led to 14 patent filings and 35 publications. Academic highlights that have received international recognition include a novel, predictive NBTI reliability model (invited paper at IEDM 2010) and the first report of a 0.18 µm HVCMOS technology with operating voltages up to 120 V and 8 kV HBM ESD (ISPSD 2010).

“The mastering of IC reliability for harshest environments in the ATHENIS project has not only enabled a new generation of flexible alternators for reducing CO2 emissions, but also provides the