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Lotfi, A.

Passive Components
The VLSI Handbook.
Ed. Wai-Kai Chen
Boca Raton: CRC Press LLC, 2000


Passive Components

Magnetic Components
Integration Issues Designs for Integrated
Circuits Magnetic Core Materials

Ashraf Lotfi
Bell Laboratories
Lucent Technologies


Air Core Inductors




Integrated Semiconductor Resistors Thin-Film Resistors

Junction Capacitors MOS Capacitors

7.1 Magnetic Components

Integration Issues
It is well known and recognized that magnetic components should be avoided when designing integrated
circuits due to their lack of integrability. New developments in the field of magnetic component fabrication are promising devices that can be integrated and miniaturized using monolithic fabrication
techniques as opposed to today's bulk methods. The driving forces for such developments rest in certain
applications that benefit or rely on inductive or magnetically coupled devices using ferromagnetic media.
Examples of such applications include tuned RF tanks, matching networks, dc-dc power conversion and
regulation, network filters, and line isolators/couplers.
Emerging applications requiring more mobility, lower power dissipation, and smaller component and
system sizes have been drivers for the development of highly integrated systems and/or subsystems. In
order to match these trends, it has become necessary to be able to integrate high-quality magnetic devices
(i.e., inductors and transformers) with the systems they operate in as opposed to being stand-alone
discrete devices. Not only does their discrete nature prevent further miniaturization, but their very nature
also hampers improved performance (e.g., speed).
The main features of a monolithic magnetic device include:

High values of inductance compared to air core spirals

Enhanced high-frequency performance
Energy storage, dc bias, and power handling capabilities
Use of ferromagnetic materials as a magnetic core
Photolithographic fabrication of windings and magnetic core
Multi-layer mask fabrication for complete magnetic device design
Standard or semi-standard IC processing techniques

Due to the use of standard photolithography, etching, and patterning methods for their fabrication,
monolithic magnetic devices may appear compatible with IC processes. However, two main characteristics
make these devices more suitably fabricated off-line from a mainstream IC process:

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Coarser design rules. Usually, magnetic device designs do not require sub-micron geometries as
demanded by semiconductor designs. This discrepancy means that an expensive sub-micron
process for these components would unnecessarily raise the device cost.
Use of ferromagnetic core materials. The use of iron, cobalt, nickel, and their alloys is at the heart
of a high-quality magnetic device. Some of these materials are alien and contaminating to semiconductor cleanrooms. As a result, processing sequences and logistics for full integration with
semiconductors is still in the development phase.
With these two major differences, integration of magnetics and semiconductors may require the use of
multi-chip modules or single package multi-die cases. Full integration into a single monolithic die
requires separate processing procedures using the same substrate.
The construction of a monolithic micromagnetic device fabricated on a substrate such as silicon or
glass is shown in Fig. 7.1. In this diagram, the magnetic layer is sandwiched between upper and lower
conductor layers that are connected together by means of an electrically conducting via. This structure
is referred to as a toroidal device from its discrete counterpart.


Cross-section of a monolithic micromagnetic device fabricated using IC methods.

Conversely, a dual structure can be made where two magnetic layers sandwich the conductor layer (or
layers). This dual structure can be referred to as an EE device since it is derived from the standard discrete
EE core type. In either case, as required by the operation of any magnetically coupled device, the
magnetic flux path in the magnetic film and the current flow in the coil conductor are orthogonal, in
accordance with Ampere's circuital law. Interlayer insulation between conductors and the magnetic
layer(s) is necessary, both to reduce capacitive effects and to provide a degree of electrical voltage
breakdown. These parameters are affected by the choice of insulator systems used in microfabricated
circuits, due to the differing values of dielectric constants and breakdown voltages used. Some commonly
used insulator systems include silicon dioxide and polyimide, each of which has distinctly different
processing methods and physical characteristics. Conductor layers for the coil windings can be fabricated
using standard aluminum metallization. In some cases, copper conductors are a better choice due to
their higher conductivity and hence lower resistive losses. This is especially important if the device is to
handle any significant power. The magnetic film layer is a thin film of chosen magnetic material typically
between 1 and 10 m in thickness. Such materials can be routinely deposited by standard techniques
such as sputtering or electrodeposition. The specific method chosen must yield magnetic films with the
desired properties, namely permeability, parallel loss resistance, and maximum flux density. These parameters vary with the deposition conditions and techniques, such that significant development and optimization has occurred to produce the desired results.
Since the design may call for energy storage and hence gaps in the core, the fabrication method can
be modified to incorporate these features. Figure 7.2 shows the geometry of a planar magnetic core with
a gap produced by photolithography. In this case, the gap is formed as a result of the artwork generated
for the core design. Figure 7.3 shows the design of a gap using multi-layer magnetic films. The energy
storage region exists in the edge insulation region between the two magnetic layers.

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Planar, single-layer magnetic core configuration for energy storage (top view).


Multiple magnetic layers for energy storage micromagnetics (cross-sectional view).

The fabrication and construction of conductors for the coil usually involve depositing standard interconnect metals (e.g., aluminum) by sputter deposition. The thicknesses are chosen based on the currentcarrying capability and the frequency of operation, as well as the desired configuration (inductor or
transformer). The dc resistance of the conductors must be minimized to reduce dc losses, but the
conductor thickness and arrangement must also result in minimal ac losses. This can be accomplished
by reduced resistivity (i.e., copper vs. aluminum) and by multiple conductor layers to reduce skin and
proximity effects at high frequencies.

Designs for Integrated Circuits

Unlike discrete magnetic components, monolithic micromagnetic devices are designed to operate at
substantially higher frequencies. Due to their integrated nature and smaller physical size, interconnection
and coupling parasitics are lower, thus enabling high-frequency response. However, the smaller physical
size also places upper limits on such characteristics as inductance, current levels, power levels, and
dissipation. With these limits, the maximum energy storage, E, is lower. In any inductor, the energy stored
due to the current flowing (I) is related to the magnetic fields in the volume of the device by:

1 2
E = --- LI = --2

B H dv


where L is the transformer or inductor's inductance in Henries, and I (A) is the maximum current carried
by the corresponding winding. This is related to the magnetic flux density, B, and magnetic field, H,
present in the volume of the device. So, for a small physical volume, one can see from Eq. (7.1) that the
energy stored is also small. This limited energy storage capability limits these devices to operation in
low-power circuits. In order to obtain a high B-H product for more energy storage, a combination of
high-permeability and low-permeability regions should be fabricated (i.e., a gap in the high permeability
path is introduced). This gap region helps to maintain a high flux density as well as an appreciable field.
The highly permeable region, on the other hand, while being able to maintain high flux density does not
support large magnetic fields due to the fundamental relationship between magnetic field and flux:

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B = 0 r H


In Eq. (7.2), 0 is the permeability of vacuum (4 107 H/m) and r is the relative permeability of
the medium in which the magnetic field produces the corresponding magnetic flux density. The size of
this gap determines both the energy storage levels and the inductance attainable (which is lower than
the inductance attainable without a gap). In micromagnetic fabrication, two approaches may be taken
to create this air gap region. One is to introduce a planar lithographical feature into the core structure
(Fig. 7.2), and the other is to rely on multiple magnetic core layers separated by insulating layers (Fig.
7.3). The drawback of the lithographical gap is the limits imposed by the design rules. In this case, the
gap may not be any smaller than the minimum design rule, which can be quite coarse. Excessive gap
sizes result in very low inductance, requiring an increase in number of turns to compensate for this
drop. Consequently, electrical losses in these windings increase and also the fabrication becomes more
complicated. The drawback of multiple magnetic core layers is the need to add another level of processing
to obtain at least a second (or more) magnetic layer(s). The stack-up of these layers and the edge
terminations determine the amount of energy storage possible in the device. Unlike the lithographically
produced gap, the energy storage in this case is much more difficult to estimate due to the twodimensional nature of the edge termination fields in the gap region surrounding the multi-layer magnetic cores. In uniform field cases, the energy stored in volume of the gap can be obtained from Eqs.
(7.1) and (7.2) due to the continuity and uniformity of the flux density vector in both the core and gap
regions, giving:

1 2 1 B V gap
E = --- LI --- -------------2
2 0


where Vgap is the volume of the gap region in cubic meters (m3). The approximation is valid as long as
the gap region carries a uniform flux density and is magnetically long compared to the length of the
highly permeable core region (i.e., gap length/r gap >> core length/r mag). Usually, this condition can be
satisfied with most ferromagnetic materials of choice, but some ferromagnetic materials may have low
enough permeabilities to render this approximation invalid. In this event, some energy is stored within
the ferromagnetic material and Eq. (7.3) should be modified. Eq. (7.3) is very useful in determining the
size of gap needed to support the desired inductance and current levels for the device. For example, if a
250-nH inductor operating at 250 mA of current bias were needed, the gap volume necessary to support
these specifications would be about 2 105 mm3, assuming a material with a maximum flux density of
1.0 T. In the planar device of Fig. 7.2 with nominal magnetic film dimensions of 2 m in the normal
direction and 200 m in the planar direction, the required gap width would be about 5 m. Since the
gap in this case is obtained by photolithography, the minimum feature size for this process would need
to be 5 m. If a different material of lower maximum flux density capability of 0.5 T were used instead,
the rated current level of 250 mA would have to be downgraded to 62 mA to prevent saturation of the
magnetic material. Conversely, the gap length of 5 m could be increased to 20 m while maintaining
the same current level, assuming adjustments are made to the turns to maintain the desired inductance.
Such tradeoffs are common, but are more involved due to the interaction of gap size with inductance
level and number of turns.
Another aspect of the design is the conductor for coil windings for an inductor or for primary and
secondary windings in the case of a transformer. The number of turns is usually selected based on the
desired inductance and turns ratio (for a transformer), which are typically circuit design parameters. As
is well known, the number of turns around a magnetic core gives rise to an inductance, L, given by:

0 r N A
L = -------------------l

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In this relation, N is the number of turns around a magnetic core of cross-sectional area A (m2) and
magnetic path length l (m). The inductance is reduced by the presence of a gap since this will serve to
increase the path length. The choice of conductor thickness is always made in light of the ac losses
occurring when conductors carry high-frequency currents. The conductors will experience various current redistribution effects due to the presence of eddy currents induced by the high-frequency magnetic
fields surrounding the conductors. The well-known skin effect is one of such effects. Current will crowd
toward the surface of the conductor and flow mainly in a thickness related to the skin depth, ,

= ------------------- m
f 0


For a copper conductor, = 66/ f ( MHz ) m. At 10 MHz, the skin depth in copper is 20 m, placing
an upper limit on conductor thickness. When the interconnect metallization is aluminum,
= 81/ f ( MHz ) m, so the upper limit at 10 MHz becomes 25 m of metal thickness. Usually, the
proximity of conductors to one another forces further optimization due to the introduction of losses due
to eddy currents induced by neighboring conductors. In this case, the conductor thickness should be
further adjusted with respect to the skin depth to reduce the induced eddy currents. The increase in
conductor resistance due to the combined skin and proximity effects in a simple primary-secondary
winding metallization scheme (shown in Fig. 7.4) can be calculated as an increase over the dc resistance
of the conductor from:

1 h sinh h + sin h sinh h sin h

Rac = Rdc --- --- ---------------------------------------------- + -----------------------------------------------
2 cosh h cos h cosh h + cos h


In this relationship, h is the thickness of the metallization being used and Rac is obtained once the dc
resistance (Rdc, also a function of h) is known. A distinct minimum for Rac can be obtained and yields
the lowest possible ac resistance when:

--- = --


with a corresponding minimum value of ac resistance of:

Rac = --- Rdc tanh --- = 1.44Rdc



When the geometry differs from the simple primary-to-secondary interface of Fig. 7.4 to more turns,
layers, shapes, etc., a more complicated analysis is necessary.4 The simple relation of Eq. (7.7) is no longer


Configuration of primary and secondary transformer metallization for ac resistance calculation.

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FIGURE 7.5 The variation of high-frequency metallization resistance with metal thickness for the configuration in
Fig. 7.4. A distinct minimum is observed due to skin and proximity effects.

valid. Nevertheless, this relation provides a very good starting point for many designs. A qualitative
explanation of this behavior stems from the fact that a thicker metallization will produce less dc resistance,
but provides poor ac utilization due to current crowding near the surface. On the other hand, a thinner
metallization increases the dc resistance, while providing better ac conductor utilization. The optimum
situation is somewhere in between these two extreme cases, as can be seen from Fig. 7.5.
The principles presented in this section regarding design issues are at the core of every magnetic
component design for integrated circuits. However, many design details especially at elevated frequencies are beyond the scope of this text. It is important to note that many of the limitations on highfrequency designs (100 MHz and higher) are imposed by the properties of the magnetic materials used
in the cores of these devices.

Magnetic Core Materials

The most common magnetic materials used for discrete magnetic components operating at higher
frequencies are ferrites. This is mainly due to their high resistivity (1 to 10 m). Despite a low saturation
flux density of about 0.3T, such a high resistivity makes ferrites suitable for applications up to 1 MHz,
where hysteresis core losses are still limited. When the frequency is raised over 1MHz, the core losses
become excessive, thus degrading the quality factor and efficiency of the circuit. Moreover, the permeability of all magnetic materials experiences a roll-off beyond a maximum upper frequency. Commonly
used ferrites (e.g., MnZn ferrites) operate up to 1 to 2 MHz before permeability roll-off occurs. Higher
roll-off frequencies are available, but with higher loss factors (e.g., NiZn ferrites). Ferrites, however, are
not amenable to integrated circuit fabrication since they are produced by a high-temperature sintering
process. In addition, their low flux saturation levels would not result in the smallest possible device per
unit area. A set of more suitable materials for integrated circuit fabrication are the magnetic metal alloys
usually derived from iron, cobalt, or nickel. These alloys can be deposited as thin films using IC fabrication
techniques such as sputtering or electrodeposition and possess saturation flux levels of 0.8T to as high
as 2.0T. Their main drawback due to their metallic nature is a much lower resistivity. Permalloy, a common
magnetic alloy (80% nickel and 20% iron) has a resistivity of 20 108 m, with a saturation flux density
of 0.8T. Other materials such as sendust (iron-aluminum-silicon) have improved resistivity of 120 108
m and saturation flux density of 0.95T.
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To overcome the problem of low resistivity, the magnetic layers must be deposited in thin films with
limited thickness. Since eddy currents flow in the metallic films at high frequencies, their effect can be
greatly reduced by making the film thickness less than a skin depth. The skin depth in the magnetic film,
m, is given by:

m = ------------------------ m
f o r


In a thin film of permalloy (r = 2000), the skin depth at 10 MHz is 3 m. In order to limit eddy current
losses in the film, its thickness must be chosen to be less than 3 m. This limitation will conflict with
the inductance requirement, since a larger inductance requires a thicker magnetic film (see Eq. 7.4). Such
difficulties can be overcome by depositing the magnetic film in multiple layers insulated from one another
to restrict eddy current circulation. Such a structure would still provide the overall thickness needed to
achieve the specified inductance while limiting the eddy current loss factor. The use of multi-layers also
allows the reduction of die size due to the build-up of magnetic core cross-section (A in Eq. 7.4) in
vertical layers, rather than by increasing the planar dimensions. As a result, it can be seen that a tradeoff
exists between number of layers and die size to yield the most economical die cost.
In addition to eddy current losses due to the low magnetic metal resistivity, hysteresis losses occur in any
magnetic material due to the traversing of the non-linear B-H loop at the frequency of operation. This is
due to the loss of energy needed to rotate magnetic domains within the material. This loss is given by

P hys = f H dB


which is the area enclosed by the particular B-H loop demanded by the circuit operation and f is the
frequency of operation. Total loss is expressed in many forms, depending on the application. In many cases,
it is given in the form of a parallel or shunt resistance (Fig. 7.6) and it therefore presents a reduction
in impedance to the source as well as a reduction in the overall quality factor of the inductor or transformer.
It also represents a finite power loss since this loss is simply V2/Rp watts, where V is the applied voltage.
Notice that Rp is a non-linear resistance with both frequency and flux level dependencies. It can be
specified at a given frequency and flux level and is usually experimentally measured. It can also be
extracted from core loss data usually available in the form


P = kf B = ----Rp


In this relation, k, , and are constants for the material at hand. This model is useful for circuit
simulation purposes, thereby avoiding the non-linear properties of the magnetic material. Care, however,
should be exercised in using such models since with a large enough excitation, the value of the shunt
resistor changes.


Magnetic material losses are represented by a parallel shunt resistance.

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7.2 Air Core Inductors

Air core inductors do not use a magnetic core to concentrate the lines of magnetic flux. Instead, the flux
lines exist in the immediate neighborhood of the coils without tight confinement. As a result, the inductance
of an air core coil is considerably lower than one with a magnetic core. In fact, at low frequencies, the quality
factor is reduced by a factor of r when the loss factor is small. At high frequencies, however, the loss factor
may be so high that the addition of a magnetic core and increased inductance actually ends up degrading
the quality factor below the air core value. Discrete air core inductors have been used in RF applications
and have been wound using discrete magnet or Litz wire onto forming cylinders.
For integrated circuits, especially RF and microwave circuits, spiral metallization deposited on a
substrate is a common means to obtain small amounts of inductance with relatively high quality factors.
Inductance values that can be obtained by these techniques are usually in the low nH range (1 to 20 nH).
Estimating inductance values using air cores is much more complicated than in the case of highly
permeable cores due to the lack of flux concentration. Formulas have been derived for different spiral
air coil shapes (assuming perfectly insulating substrates) and are tabulated in several handbooks for
inductance calculations.69 An example of a useful inductance formula9 is:

8r avg
8r avg
1 ( r out r in ) 2
7 2
+ ------ ----------------------ln ----------------------+ 3.583 0.5 (7.12)
L = 4 10 N r avg ln ----------------------




In this formula, rout and rin are the outer and inner radii of the spiral, respectively, and the average
radius ravg is

( r out + r in )
r avg = ----------------------2


The formula is an approximation that loses accuracy as the device size becomes large (i.e., large rout with
respect to rin).
The loss factors of such devices are strongly influenced by the non-idealities of the substrates and
insulators on which they are deposited. For example, aluminum spiral inductors fabricated on silicon
with highly doped substrates and epitaxial layers can have significant reductions in quality factor
due to the conductivity of the underlying layers. These layers act as ground planes, producing the
effect of an image of the spiral underneath. This in turn causes a loss in inductance. This can be as
much as 30 to 60% when compared to a spiral over a perfect insulator. In addition, an increase in
the loss factor occurs due to circulating eddy currents in the conductive under-layers. Increases in
the effective resistance of 5 to 10 times the perfect insulator case are possible, increasing with
increased frequency. All these effects can be seen to degrade the performance of these inductors,
thus requiring design optimization.1012
These substrate effects appear in the form of coupling capacitances from the spiral metal to the
substrates, as well as spreading resistances in the substrate itself. The spreading resistance is frequency
dependent, increasing with higher frequency. The amount of coupling to the substrate depends on the
coupling capacitances and hence the separation of the spiral from the substrate. This distance is the
dielectric thickness used in the IC process. Only with very large dielectric thicknesses are the substrate
effects negligible. In practical cases where it is relatively thin and limited to a few microns, the effects are
very large, giving an overall quality factor, Q, which is significantly lower than the Q of the spiral without
the substrate. Fig. 7.7 shows a typical degradation curve of Q on a resistive substrate for thick and
thin separations or dielectric thicknesses. The trends of this curve are also similar if the dielectric
thickness variable is replaced by the substrate resistivity as a variable. The exact amount of degradation
depends on the separation involved, the dielectric constant, and the resistivity of the substrate. With

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Degradation of inductor quality factor by placement on a resistive substrate.

these quantities known, it is possible to construct a circuit model to include these effects and hence solve
for the overall quality factor, including the substrate effects.
In order to improve the inductor quality factor on a resistive substrate, some design solutions are
possible. One solution to this problem is to increase the substrate resistivity. Another is to design a
spiral with small footprint to reduce coupling to the substrate. In order to offset the increased resistance
(which also reduces Q), thicker metallization would be necessary and clearly a tradeoff situation arises
requiring some design optimization by circuit modeling or, more accurately, by electromagnetic finiteelement analysis.

7.3 Resistors
Resistors have been available for use in integrated circuits for many years.1316 Some of these are made
in silicon and thus are directly integrated with the rest of the IC process. Others, similar to the magnetic
device case, are thin-film resistors fabricated in an off-line process that is not necessarily compatible with
silicon IC processing. Integrated silicon resistors offer simplicity in fabrication but have less than ideal
characteristics with loose tolerances. For this reason, many circuits rely on the ratio of resistor values
rather than on their absolute values. Thin-film resistors, on the other hand, are far superior, offering
tight tolerances and the ability to trim their absolute value down to very precise values. They also display
more stability in terms of temperature and frequency dependence.17
Usually, resistors in integrated circuits are characterized in terms of their sheet resistance rather than
their absolute resistance value. Sheet resistance, Rsheet, is defined as the resistance of a resistive strip with
equal length and width so that

R sheet = --- (


where is the material resistivity (m) and t is its thickness (m). Once Rsheet is given, the resulting
resistor value is obtained by multiplying by its length-to-width aspect ratio. In order to avoid very high
aspect ratios, an appropriate sheet resistivity should be used. For example, with Rsheet = 10 / a 10:1
length-to-width ratio would give a 100- resistor. However, to obtain a 1-k resistor, it would be better
to use a different material with, for example, Rsheet = 100 / with the same 10:1 ratio instead of using
a 100:1 ratio with the low-resistivity material.

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Integrated Semiconductor Resistors

In this category, the existing semiconductor is used as the resistive material. The resistor may be fabricated
at a number of stages during the IC process, giving rise to different resistors with different characteristics.
Some of the most common include:
Diffused Resistors
This can be formed during either the base or emitter diffusion of a bipolar process. For an npn process,
the base diffusion resistor is a p-type of moderate sheet resistivity, typically in the range of 100 to 200
/. This can provide resistors in the 50 to 10 k range. The heavily doped n+ emitter diffusion will
produce an n+-type resistor with low sheet resistivity of 2 to 10 /. This can provide resistors with low
values in the 1 to 100 range. Due to tolerances in the photolithographic and etching processes, the
tolerance in the absolute resistance can be as high as range. Due to tolerances on the photolithographic
and etching processes, the tolerance on the absolute resistance can be as high as 30%. However, resistor
pairs can be matched closely in temperature coefficients and doping profiles, especially when placed sideby-side on the chip, so that the resultant tolerance of the resistor ratio can be made to be less than 1%.
Since a diffusion resistor is based on a p-type base over an n-type epitaxy, or an n+-type emitter over a
p-type base, it is essential that the formed p-n junctions are always reverse-biased to ensure that current
flows in the intended portion of the resistor. The presence of such a reverse-biased p-n junction also
introduces a distributed capacitance from the resistor body to the substrate. This will cause highfrequency degradation, whereby the resistor value drops from its nominal design value to a lower
impedance value due to the shunting capacitance.
Pinched Resistors
A variation to the diffused resistor that is used to increase the sheet resistivity of base region is to use
the n+-type emitter as a means to reduce the cross-sectional area of the base region, thereby increasing
the sheet resistivity. This can increase the sheet resistance to about 1 k/. In this case, one end of
the n+-type emitter must be tied to one end of the resistor to contain all current flow to the pinched
base region.
Epitaxial Resistors
High resistor values can be formed using the epitaxial layer since it has higher resistivity than other
regions. Epitaxial resistors can have sheet resistances around 5 k /. However, epitaxial resistors have
even looser tolerances due to the wide tolerances on both epitaxial resistivity and epitaxial layer thickness.
MOS Resistors
A MOSFET can be biased to provide a non-linear resistor. Such a resistor provides much greater values
than diffused ones while occupying a much smaller area. When the gate is shorted to the drain in a
MOSFET, a quadratic relation between current and voltage exists and the device conducts current only
when the voltage exceeds the threshold voltage. Under these circumstances, the current flowing in this
resistor (i.e., the MOSFET drain current) depends on the ratio of channel width-to-length. Hence, to
increase the resistor value, the aspect ratio of the MOSFET should be reduced to give longer channel
length and narrower channel width.

Thin-Film Resistors
As mentioned before in the magnetic core case, a resistive thin-film layer can be deposited (e.g., by
sputtering) on the substrate to provide a resistor with very tight absolute-value tolerance. In addition,
given a large variety of resistor materials, a wide range of resistor values can be obtained in small
footprints, thereby providing very small parasitic capacitances and small temperature coefficients. Some
common thin-film resistor materials include tantalum, tantalum nitride, and nickel-chromium. Unlike
semiconductor resistors, thin-film resistors can be laser trimmed to adjust their values to very high
accuracies of up to 0.01%. Laser trimming can only increase the resistor value since the fine beam

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evaporates a portion of the thin-film material. By its nature, laser trimming is a slow and costly operation
that is only justified when very high accuracy on absolute values is necessary.

7.4 Capacitors
As in the inductor case, the limitation on integrated capacitors is die size, due to the limited
capacitance/unit area available on a die. These limitations are imposed by the dielectrics used with
their dielectric constants and breakdown voltages. Most integrated capacitors are either junction
capacitors or MOS capacitors.

Junction Capacitors
A junction capacitor is formed when a p-n junction is reversed-biased. This can be formed using the
baseemitter, basecollector, or collectorsubstrate junctions of an npn structure in bipolar ICs. Of
course, the particular junction must be maintained in reverse-bias to provide the desired capacitance.
Since the capacitance arises from the parallel plate effect across the depletion region, whose thickness in
turn is voltage dependent, the capacitance is also voltage dependent, decreasing with increased reversebias. The capacitance depends on the reverse-voltage in the following form:

C ( V ) = -----------------------------n
( 1 + V 0 )


The built-in potential, 0, depends on the impurity concentrations of the junction being used. For
example, 0 = 0.7 V for a typical bipolar baseemitter junction. The exponent n depends on the doping
profile of the junction. The approximations n = 1/2 for a step junction and n = 1/3 for a linearly graded
junction are commonly used. The resultant capacitance depends on C0, the capacitance per unit area
with zero bias applied. This depends on the doping level and profile. The baseemitter junction provides
the highest capacitance per unit area, around 1000 pF/mm2 with a low breakdown voltage (~5 V). The
basecollector junction provides about 100 pF/mm2 with a higher breakdown voltage (~40 V).

MOS Capacitors
MOS capacitors are usually formed as parallel plate devices with a top metallization and a high conductivity n+ emitter diffusion as the two plates, with a thin oxide dielectric sandwiched in between. The
oxide is usually a thin layer of SiO2 with a relative dielectric constant r of 3 to 4, or Si3N4 with r of 5
to 8. Since the capacitance obtained is 0rA/toxide, the oxide thickness, toxide is critical. The lower limit on
the oxide thickness depends on the process yields and tolerances, as well as the desired breakdown voltage
and reliability. MOS capacitors can provide around 1000 pF/mm2, with breakdown voltages up to 100 V.
Unlike junction capacitors, MOS capacitors are voltage independent and can be biased either positively
or negatively. Their breakdown, however, is destructive since the oxide fails permanently. Care should
be taken to prevent overvoltage conditions.

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MAG-15, pp. 1803, 1979.
3. Mino, M. et al., A new planar microtransformer for use in micro-switching converters, IEEE
Trans. Magn., vol. 28, pp. 1969, 1992.

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4. Vandelac, J. and Ziogas, P. , A novel approach for minimizing high frequency transformer copper
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Electron Components Conf., May 1974, pp. 152-161.
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