DoD’s funding will enable SkyWater Technology to make chips which can work in hostile conditions such as outer space.
SkyWater Technology, a U.S. semiconductor maker stated, it will be receiving up to $170 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to make smaller and faster semiconductors with new materials that can work in outer space.
In 2017, Bloomington, Minnesota-based SkyWater Technology was spun off from Cypress Semiconductor Corp to a group of U.S.-based investors. During the course of that year, it became part of a DoD program to ensure U.S. military access to the domestic chip supply chain.
In a statement, SkyWater executives stated, the Defense Department investment will allow it to develop a new chip making process. So as to support the new process, SkyWater will pay to add about 60,000 square feet of production space for both defense and commercial customers and add 30-50 mostly high-end engineers to its staff of 500.
The first phase of the project, which will cost $80 million, will help SkyWater make chips that work when exposed to high levels of radiation in spacecraft and medical devices. The U.S. military also uses such chips to ensure electronics will remain functional in a nuclear conflict.
SkyWater disclosed, the funds will enable it to use copper instead of aluminum to connect circuits on its chips; the change is likely to lead it to make even smaller chips than its current 90-nanometer manufacturing technology allows.
During an interview, SkyWater’s President Thomas Sonderman stated, smaller and faster chips will enable the company to become more competitive in commercial markets which is showing demand battery monitoring systems and wireless chargers.
“The goal of the government really is to stand up capabilities that can be used commercially,” said Sonderman. “They want to have commercially viable entities that ultimately can provide the technologies they use for their applications.”