Fraunhofer IZM scientists receive research awards for groundbreaking experiments in microelectronic system packaging and reliability
Tiny, black boxes that have changed the way we live: sensors and computer chips are found everywhere - from airbags in vehicles to hearing aids. To ensure that the fragile components operate reliably, they have to be packaged in polymer, in a way that maximizes cost-efficiency and minimizes size. But not all packaging is equal. The manufacturing processes for component casings undergo a battery of complicated simulation tests on the computer before series production begins to make sure that their design is as reliable as possible – an area in which Thomas Schreier-Alt specializes. The PhD physicist applies numeric simulation to optimize packaging for microelectronic and mechatronic components.
But more than this, the 39 year-old has also developed a new way to investigate existing manufacturing processes using optical strain gauges inside components. In this process, fiber-optic strain sensors – so-called fiber Bragg grating – are molded together with the packaging polymer. Such innovative measuring techniques can be used to analyze the component stress in terms of temperature and strain in key process steps, such as the injection of the material, the ejection of the component from the tool form, which is still rough on components, or the later material shrinkage.
Thomas Schreier-Alt received Fraunhofer IZM’s Research Award for his groundbreaking work on the 18th December. He shares the award with his colleague, Dr. Hans Walter, whose research is no less exciting. His specialty is identifying and analyzing material-related defects. For example, if your mobile phone stops working or your car suddenly grinds to a halt for no discernable reason, the cause is frequently the breakdown of one or more materials, or, more precisely, their interaction with related microelectronic components.
Selecting the right materials is essential for thermal-mechanical simulation and optimization of reliability, particularly for generating lifecycle models. A second challenge is determining the many different material characteristics reproducibly and under the appropriate operating conditions.
Hans Walter was recognized for his experiments in thermal-mechanical material characterization and the analysis of damage in micro-nano electronics. These included developing and modifying measuring techniques and the test specimen geometries required for these. His methods are widely employed to analyze time-, temperature- and moisture-sensitive material behavior in many different projects.
Fraunhofer IZM held the awards ceremony at Berlin’s Maritim Hotel, where Institute Head Prof. Herbert Reichl presented the certificates to the awardees.