ST breaks the 20nm barrier for cost-competitive next-generation MCUs

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STMicroelectronics has announced an advanced process that’s based on 18nm Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FD-SOI) technology with embedded phase change memory (ePCM).

Intended to support next-generation embedded processing devices, this new process technology, co-developed by ST and Samsung Foundry, delivers what they are calling a ‘leap in performance and power consumption’ for embedded processing applications while allowing larger memory sizes and higher levels of integration of analogue and digital peripherals.

The first next-generation STM32 microcontroller based on the new technology will start sampling to selected customers in the second half of 2024, with production planned for the second half of 2025.

Commenting Remi El-Ouazzane, President of Microcontrollers, Digital ICs and RF products Group at STMicroelectronics, said, “ST has pioneered and brought to our customers FD-SOI and PCM technologies for automotive and aerospace applications. We are now taking the next step to bring the benefits of these technologies to developers of industrial applications starting with our next-generation STM32 microcontrollers.”

Compared to ST 40nm embedded non-volatile memory (eNVM) technology used today, 18nm FD-SOI with ePCM significantly improves key figures of merit:

  • More than 50% better performance-to-power ratio
  • 2.5-times higher non-volatile memory (NVM) density enabling larger on-chip memories
  • Three times higher digital density for integration of digital peripherals such as AI and graphics accelerators and state-of-the-art security and safety features
  • 3dB improvement in noise figure for enhanced RF performance in wireless MCUs

The technology is capable of 3V operation to supply analogue features such as power management, reset systems, clock sources and digital/analogue converters and is, currently, the only sub-20 nm technology supporting this capability.

The technology also delivers improved reliability thanks to robust high-temperature operation, radiation hardening, and data retention capabilities already proven in automotive applications.

The large memory sizes support the growing needs of edge AI processing, multi-protocol RF stacks, over-the-air updates, and advanced security features.

The high performance and large memory size capabilities will also give developers the option to use more highly integrated and cost-effective microcontrollers for their designs. And it will allow further steps in power efficiency for ultralow power devices.

The first microcontroller based on this technology will integrate the ARM Cortex-M core, providing enhanced performance for machine learning and digital signal processing applications. It will offer fast and flexible external memory interfaces, advanced graphic capabilities and will integrate numerous analogue and digital peripherals.

It will also have the advanced, certified security features already introduced on ST’s latest MCUs.