Imec launches “advanced RF” initiative for 6G devices

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Imec has announced the start of a new research program christened “Advanced RF,” aimed at paving the road to next-gen mobile communications. With this initiative, the Leuven-based technology hub is focused on leading the way in creating a roadmap beyond 5G device technology and developing scalable and energy-efficient 6G device technology – expected to operate at much higher frequencies compared to 5G, going well above 100 GHz.

One of the paths the Imec researchers will explore includes the use of a hybrid III-V/CMOS approach to energy-efficiently and cost-effectively accommodate the very high bandwidths enabled by radio frequencies above 100 GHz. Focusing on concrete proof points, the institute and its partners will present prototypes that show this approach’s potential. The innovation hub will tap into its broad expertise in the connectivity space to realize the program’s targets – combining its system, circuit and network knowledge with its semiconductor know-how, both in the digital and analog domains.

“Today’s standard silicon device technology lacks the required transmit power and energy efficiency at higher radio frequencies. New III-V materials – such as indium phosphide – might offer a way out, but don’t yet lend themselves to be integrated onto a silicon platform,” explains Nadine Collaert, program director for Imec’s analog/RF activities. “Hence, we’ll specifically look into hybrid III-V/CMOS approaches. We’ll investigate how III-V materials can heterogeneously be combined with CMOS technology, how those materials perform in terms of reliability, which degradation mechanisms are at work, and so on. Building on those insights, we aim to create mobile device technology that efficiently and cost-effectively operates at 100 GHz and beyond.”