SRC and University of Arizona Researchers Advance Peridynamic Theory Research to Help Make Electronics More Reliable

New Developments Help Predict Material Fractures That Cause Failure

Aug 25, 2009

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. - Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), the world's leading university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies, and University of Arizona researchers today announced they have made significant research advancements to a sophisticated electronics failure simulation method known as the Peridynamic Theory.

The research improves the method of accurately forecasting the location and nature of potential failures in electronic devices due to cracks in the integrated materials, promising to help increase the durability and reliability of today's electronic devices and potentially even aircraft and bridges.

"The electronics industry needs much more than incremental improvements to address the reliability prediction of electronic devices," said University of Arizona Professor Erdogan Madenci, who is concluding a three-year research contract with SRC on innovative approaches for modeling fracture in semiconductor systems. "There is a pressing need for a robust and versatile simulation method as electronic devices that consist of many different types of materials shrink in size. The Peridynamic Theory simulation tool will enable design and manufacturing engineers to perform failure analyses with high confidence while reducing expensive and time-consuming laboratory testing."

Achieving stable and reliable operation in electronics devices is both critical and challenging. In many cases, electronics failure is a result of tiny cracks or fractures in any of the numerous materials inside of the device. These can be caused by such events as excessive heat, mechanical wearing or various types of physical impact. Often, there are multiple cracks making identification and prevention extremely complex.

In addition, traditional modeling approaches such as Finite Element Method are unable to maintain accuracy as the technologies transition into nano-scales. Technology nodes in the electronics industry are concerned with the smallest feature sizes in integrated circuits.

"Current state-of-the-art models for fracture have limited ability to predict the location of failure in complex systems since they require the existence of a pre-existing crack at a specified location," said Dr. Scott List, director of Interconnect and Packaging Sciences at SRC. "The Peridynamic Theory circumvents this limitation and can predict the initial location and growth paths of cracks from first principle material properties. This advance provides a simplified and more accurate approach for failure predictions. With insights from the Peridynamic simulations, cell phones of the future should have a better chance of surviving drops on the floor."

Now, SRC researchers have created a three-dimensional Peridynamic Theory simulation tool that enables the continuation of the scaling and design of electronic materials, explores the thermo-mechanical response of electronic devices and provides failure mechanisms across multi-material systems that enhance reliability. These simulations have been validated with experimental measurements of failure in complex, semiconductor geometries.

The research provides design and manufacturing engineers with a better understanding of material interfaces and potential failure mechanisms, such as crack initiation and propagation in interconnects, thermal and mechanical fatigue of solder joints and failure due to drop shock.

Benefits Beyond Semiconductors
The ability of SRC to use Peridynamic Theory to computationally predict and prevent failures could bring benefits beyond electronics. For example, aerospace industry engineers could better design aircraft (or spacecraft) based on predictions of how each will respond to various loading conditions, minimizing the risk of fracture and increasing passenger safety.

SRC's research is also well-suited for simulation of impact, blast and penetration activity of buildings, vehicles and more. A powerful simulation capability involving response of buildings and vehicles under these extreme conditions could prove to be greatly useful to the defense industry in increasing safety and reducing threats.

Structures such as bridges and buildings also fail under the principles of fracture. Small cracks under poorly designed conditions could weaken structures and be costly and catastrophic.

About SRC
Celebrating 27 years of collaborative research for the semiconductor industry, SRC defines industry needs, invests in and manages the research that gives its members a competitive advantage in the dynamic global marketplace. Awarded the National Medal of Technology, America's highest recognition for contributions to technology, SRC expands the industry knowledge base and attracts premier students to help innovate and transfer semiconductor technology.

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