What happened to DDC pioneer SuVolta?

March 31, 2016 // By Peter Clarke
SuVolta Inc. was a promising startup developing deeply depleted channel transistor technology for low-power ICs that is no more.

Having raised more than $70 million in venture capital from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), August Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Northgate Capital, DAG Ventures and Fujitsu, SuVolta apparently ran out of runway in 2015.

Founded in 2005, SuVolta was, in essence, using the graded doping of planar bulk CMOS to produce a similar wafer profile to fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI). Whereas FDSOI starts with more expensive SOI wafers, SuVolta's DDC starts with lower cost silicon wafers but has additional process steps to produce the fully depleted region. There was also hope that the technique could be retro-actively applied to established CMOS processes and give them the scope to lower voltages and power consumption, without the necessity of going to more complex design at 28nm and below.

Indeed SuVolta signed up Fujitsu and United Microelectronics Corp. to work with it on implementation of the DDC technology. Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd. and SuVolta developed a 55nm process that went into production in 2013 ( SuVolta Power-Saving Chip Process Enters Production ). Fujitsu began production of its Milbeaut image processor IC in the process and claimed twice the performance and 30 percent less power consumption compared with similar products made using finer geometry processes.

SuVolta said it was going after opportunties in mobile processors, DRAM and IoT but was probably not helped by the fact that the Japanese semiconductor industry was experiencing its own turmoil.

In April 2015 Mie Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd. (Yokohama, Japan), a manufacturing subsidiary of Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd., announced that it had acquired the intellectual property rights to SuVolta's PowerShrink low-power CMOS technology using Deeply Depleted Channel transistors.

Bruce McWilliams, who had been CEO of SuVolta, left the company to become CEO of semiconductor materials research company Intermolecular Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) in October 2014. McWilliams confirmed that in 2015 SuVolta decided to sell off the technology and that once those transactions were completed the company was dissolved.