Engineering stronger microchips

Students develop new way to evaluate circuitry

October 31, 2011

Writer: Writer: Stephen Henderson

Six Brigham Young University-Idaho interns have worked with Pocatello company ON Semiconductor to change the way future microchip structures can be designed and evaluated for reliability.

Head student Jose Martinez presented one of the team’s research papers at the International Microelectronics and Packaging Society’s (IMAPS) annual symposium, Oct. 12, in Long Beach, Calif.

Over the last year, the interns developed an improved method for predicting the reliability of bond pads, the tiny structures that connect microchips to outside circuitry. Visible by optical microscope, the method known as the “ripple effect” categorizes the tendency for cracking in bond pads. Martinez’s research explains how the stress of manufacturing often causes bond pads to deform and crack.

“To our knowledge, no one has ever used the ripple effect to measure the strength of the bond pad,” said Martinez, a senior studying electrical engineering. “The industry is trying to create parts that won’t break down during manufacturing, and we’ve found a solution to a complex problem.”

Martinez’s presentation is one of a series from ON’s Circuit Under Pad engineering team, disclosing experimental results and improved design methods for bond pads.  The BYU-Idaho student interns are listed as coauthors on these presentations because of their significant contributions, and the formal research papers are submitted for acceptance to professional journals.

“As an undergraduate student, Jose competed very strongly in the student booth competition against graduate-level research,” said Stevan Hunter, Martinez’s mentor at ON. “His attendance at the conference gave BYU-Idaho excellent exposure among international scientists and professionals.”