SBIR Phase I: Fully-Automated Non-contact Probe System for On-wafer MillimeterWave and THz Electronics

Period of Performance: 07/01/2017 - 06/30/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

TeraProbes Inc
3674 Lagoon Ln Array
Hilliard, OH 43026
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a novel, fully-automated, non-contact metrology system that is accurate, repeatable, and cost-effective for comprehensive characterization of high-performance electronics, photonics, micro-fluidics, and biomedical device technologies. The innovative non-contact solution is free of the conventional wear and tear issues plaguing contact-based probing systems. The proposed technique could open up new research areas and directions that could have an immediate benefit to the entire semiconductor industry, thus broadly impacting all areas of our "information-driven" society. In particular, millimeter-wave and terahertz frequency bands (30-3000GHz) offer unique solutions to address key problems in sensing and spectroscopy, medical, pharmaceutical and security imaging, as well as extremely-high-data rate, ubiquitous communications. All-electronic integrated systems are badly needed for compact and cost effective applications in the above-mentioned areas. More importantly, testing and characterization of these new high-performance devices has been a challenge at their intended operation frequencies. Thus, there is ample need for comprehensive, high-performance metrology systems for characterizing entire electronic wafers automatically and without making physical contact. The automated probe system proposed here enables, for the first time, fast and accurate device and chip characterization, without making physical contact with the test wafer. The intellectual merit of this project is a novel non-contact probe system, based on wireless coupling of the test signals onto the test wafer, through on-chip antennas that are monolithically integrated with the test device. Since the physical contact to the test wafer is eliminated, there is no wear & tear to the chip or the test-bed, significantly improving reliability and repeatability as well as eliminating much of the associated testing costs. This innovative solution is scalable, and offers a comprehensive, elegant and cost-effective solution for single or differential-mode on-wafer characterization for the first time. Although the physical size of the on-chip antennas are slightly larger than typical contact-probe landing pads, the overall cost-savings in operation, labor, and maintenance offered by this innovative approach readily outweighs the on-chip real-estate occupied by the integrated antennas. Perhaps more importantly, this novel test-bed enables fully-automated, unattended testing of every single chip on an entire electronic wafer, even enabling continuous processing of multiple wafers without user involvement, thus providing significant savings in overall testing costs for high-speed electronic devices.