Site: Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC)
Kapeldreef 75
B-3001 Leuven, Belgium
Tel: (32) 16-281211; Fax (32) 16-229400

Date Visited: 16 October 1997

WTEC: E. Hu (report author)



IMEC (Interuniversity Microelectronics Center) was begun in 1984 by the Flanders government to strengthen the potential of Flemish universities and to strengthen the infrastructure in microelectronics. The general mission of IMEC is to strengthen local industry, set up new industry, and attract new industry by carrying out advanced, focused research. Initially, the lead-time on industrial technology was estimated to be five to ten years; actual operation has led to carrying out projects in the nearer-term future (3-10 years, or even under 3 years). The initial investment was ~ $80 million and 150 people. Currently, IMEC has >700 people, 100 of whom are nonpayroll (industrial participants, students with grants), and a >$80 million budget, of which ~ 50% derives from the government, and 50% is contract research.


The WTEC team's host at IMEC was Dr. Marc Van Rossum, the Head of VLSI Materials and Technologies in the Advanced Semiconductor Processing Division. He spoke of three main areas of research being carried out: (1) VLSI system design methodology; (2) materials and packaging; and (3) advanced semiconductor processing.

The advanced semiconductor processing area actually has 50% of the budget and less than 50% of the personnel. One-third of the capital expenditure in this area is associated with costs of running the pilot line. Currently, this area develops new process modules compatible with 0.25 m and 0.18 m lithographic design rules, as well as carrying out research in 0.1 m. Assessments of the programs are carried out in five-year intervals; among the measures of success are the number of spin-off companies generated (an average of one per year) and the number of contracts generated with local industry.

Discussions with Dr. Chris Van Hoof, Senior Researcher in the Materials and Packaging Division, and Dr. Jan Genoe involved the following topics:

Dr. Jan DeBoeck is carrying out work on nanomagnetics and is the coordinator of an ESPRIT Program called SPIDER, on spin-dependent nanoelectronics, which looks at the possibility of combining semiconductor devices and ferromagnetic nanostructures. One approach in this regard is the formation of nanoscale MnAs ferromagnetic clusters in GaAs through the low-temperature MBE growth of MnGaAs (230C - 280C) and subsequent annealing at temperatures ranging from 625C-730C. Depending on the starting material composition and the annealing conditions, metallic clusters of 3 to 30 nm are formed, with saturation magnetization values that first increase and then decrease with annealing temperature. Photoluminescence studies of the predominantly GaAs surrounding matrix evidences good optical quality.

Discussions with Drs. van Rossum and Magnus centered on IMEC activities in new submicron electronic technologies, as well as on European-wide microelectronic and nanoelectronic programs. Dr. Wijm Magnus is the overall coordinator of the PHANTOMS (Physics and Technology of Mesoscale Systems) program, a network of institutions now including sites in Russia and Eastern Europe as well as in Western Europe. The strategic research domains comprising PHANTOMS are (1) quantum electronics, (2) nanometer-scale optoelectronics, (3) nanotechnology, and (4) novel circuit architectures. PHANTOMS meets twice yearly, and is attempting to put together a nanoelectronics roadmap. There has been an arrangement between 7 PHANTOMS institutes and the NRC at Ottawa through ECAMI (European-Canadian Mesoscopic Initiative), which was designed to facilitate short- to midterm visits. The initial program, which ended in 1997, was successful, and negotiations are now underway to seek an extension of such an arrangement, to involve 14 European labs and 9 Canadian labs. A similar arrangement between PHANTOMS and institutions in the United States would be highly desirable, but it has not yet been possible to negotiate such an arrangement. The National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, usually recognizes bilateral proposals rather than working agreements with networks of institutions.

There was also discussion of the ESPRIT Advanced Research Initiative in Microelectronics (MEL-ARI) that includes projects launched under nanoscale integrated circuits initiative. These projects are to contribute to the research of future electron devices, such as single-electron electronics (transistors/memories based on Si, SiGe, or GaAs), molecular electronic devices, single-flux quantum logic circuits (high Tc superconductor-based) or magnetoelectronic devices. For all projects, nanofabrication is a key issue, and e-beam lithography, scanning probe microscopy, and stamping techniques are to be explored as possible technologies to produce future devices. Three associated projects deal with (1) low-energy coherent electron microguns, (2) nanolithography using chemically amplified resists, and (3) vertical SiGe MOS devices.

ESPRIT is currently operating within its "Fourth Framework" (1994-98). The Fifth Framework of ESPRIT is currently in the definition phase. During the 1st-4th frameworks, about $13.6 billion ECUs were spent, of which 30% was spent on electronics. No figures were available for nanoelectronics specifically, but long-term research was ~10% of the total budget.

Table B.1
Projects at IMEC






D. Paul, Cambridge


Single Electron Transistors

4 x 4 memory based on Hitachi Cambridge device

H. Launois

CNRS, Bagneux


Coulomb Blockade

D. Haviland, Chalmers


STM/AFM lithography

E. Dubois, ISEN, Lille


Spin Valve Nanoelectronics

J. DeBoeck, IMEC


Single Flux Quantum Device

Rogalla, U. of Twente


Cellular Automata, with University of Notre Dame

M. Macucci, Pisa


Molecular electronics

P. Morales, ENEA



M. Welland, Cambridge

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian