Culture & People

Preparing SK hynix’s Tomorrow with Future Semiconductor Technology_RTC Team

By July 5, 2021 July 20th, 2021 No Comments

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SK hynix established the new Revolutionary Technology Center (RTC) under its Research & Development early this year to secure a competitive advantage in future semiconductor technology. The decision reflects the company’s commitment to ensuring innovative technology that will set forth a new paradigm in the semiconductor industry with a mid-to-long-term perspective, instead of being complacent in maintaining its current dominant position in technology.

Newsroom sat down with RTC leaders to listen to the vision they have for the ‘innovation’. We also asked them what capabilities and skills are required to work for the team for future talents wanting to find a position in the field of technology at SK hynix.

Securing Next Generation Semiconductor Memory and Core Technologies in accordance with Changes in Computing Environment

The semiconductor memory industry is facing a few challenges. The competition for scaling for both DRAM and NAND is intensifying, and securing advanced leading technology has become more important than ever before. Some experts forecast that a limit in scaling is just around the corner.

An inflection point in the field of computing systems that use semiconductor memory is also nearing. The semiconductor industry has recently begun to explore Post von Neumann computing, moving beyond the current von Neumann architecture where semiconductor memory is are dependent on processors.

New concept of computing methods such as heterogeneous computing1 and neuromorphic computing2 has recently been raised as alternatives, while research on the next-generation memories such as PCM3 and MRAM4 is increasingly active. In addition, many are turning their attention to the chips that converge semiconductor memory such as PNM5), PIM6), CIM7) with logic unit in various forms.

RTC is responsible for securing future competitiveness for SK hynix through technology innovation in response to the rapidly changing environment of the semiconductor industry. It primarily focuses on gaining necessary core technologies needed to overcome the limits of scaling DRAM and NAND. RTC also takes on the role of securing a new-type memory that can create new values in the next-generation technology phase. RTC is also dedicated to predicting the next-generation computing method and ensuring a new concept semiconductor technology preemptively in accordance with such forecasts.

RTC Myung Hee Na

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Myung Hee Na, the head of RTC said, “A possible change in the computing method doesn’t necessarily mean a change for the entire frame of the semiconductor industry, so ensuring future continuity of DRAM and NAND is critical,” emphasizing the RTC’s role of finding innovative and groundbreaking ways to do so.

She explained that RTC is especially focused on neuromorphic computing among the various post von Neumann computing and is making great efforts to ensure the appropriate semiconductor memory  technology.

To this end, RTC integrated New Memory Technology Development (NM TD), which creates new values by developing the next-generation memories, and New Architecture Research (NAR), which analyzes future technology trends and studies semiconductor technology that fits the next generation computing system, under one organizational roof.

NM TD is focused on developing the next-generation memory technology and commercializing the technology to enable mass production to prepare for the next 2 to 3 years. The organization is also responsible for identifying technology trends for the next 5 to 10 years and exploring and securing core technologies that will enable new innovations for the next-generation source of revenue.

NAR has a longer-term perspective and oversees preemptively various advanced technologies to explore and verify necessary ‘candidate technologies’ to innovate future semiconductor technology. To this end, it focuses on studying the principles of technologies and tests feasibility as well as conducting various verification processes such as leveraging its own resources to carry out actual development.

Innovation to Remain Global Technology Leader Status

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Q. What are the objectives of RTC?

RTC aims to take on a more long-term perspective into the future beyond just the next 5 years or 10 years and continue innovation for the next 30 years to help SK hynix remain a technology leader. That comes down to two specific goals; achieving technological innovation that can deliver impact on the market and expanding the influence SK hynix has on memory semiconductor R&D to solidify its status as a global technology leader in the overall semiconductor industry.

Q. What are the strategies to achieve this goal?

The first thing we’d have to do is to realize the next generation of the semiconductor memory that can exceed the technological inflection point and expand the current value of DRAM and NAND. Second, we are focused on exploring the various alternatives in the industry in response to the blurring boundaries of the roles of Cache, DRAM, and NAND, and developing a new type of semiconductor that can create new value. Lastly, we are looking into ways for semiconductor memory to take on more diverse roles in the post-von-Neumann era, rather than being restricted to the role of storing and processing data as part of the logic unit.

Q. What mindset do you emphasize to team members to carry out RTC tasks well?

The most important thing is to have an open mind. Wanting to learn more is an important mindset. That’s because there is no guarantee that today’s technology will exist tomorrow, and the only constant is that technology always changes. We shouldn’t be afraid of change. Many times, we find ourselves confused and struggling to find a direction given due to the nature of R&D, which requires us to find something that does not exist, something that is completely new. It is the path untaken. So, we must be open to new things. We also need to be able to take risks and be unafraid of failure.

Q. Please share a few words to those who may join RTC in the future.

You normally don’t see the outcome or accomplishments of the R&D immediately. But it has a great advantage; you can lead big changes over the longer term and a sense of pride of shaping the future with our own hands. Above all, I believe RTC is an organization that builds dreams. It would be a lie if I say the work we do is not tough,  but one thing I can say for sure is that you will enjoy working at RTC even though it’s challenging. I want to ask those of you, who dream of a future developing new technologies for a better world, to dream of a future working at RTC.

Curiosity and Spirit of Challenge for New Field

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Q. What are the roles of your teams under RTC? Please share what you do in each of your teams as well.

Jung-won Seo PL (or Seo): I am currently the head of PCM PJT team under NM TD overseeing Process Integration (PI). The team is responsible for actual commercialization of semiconductors that will lead future of SK hynix, beyond securing future technology. I oversee the next-generation semiconductor memory, with a special focus on the development and production of PCM.

Hyejung Choi PL (or Choi): I oversee the Advanced Technology Team under NM TD. If PCM PJT team is responsible for development to commercialize PCM, my team is in charge of securing core technologies necessary to develop the next-generation PCM semiconductor memory technology with a perspective of looking into the next 10 years. We study what form of semiconductor memory will be needed in 10 years and look at materials or operation principle, developing the necessary technologies to achieve this.

Joong-sik Kim TL (or Kim): I lead Pathfinding in the Future Memory Research Team under NAR. The team explores and studies what types of technologies we will need to prepare for the changes of the environment around memory systems with a long-term perspective. Our goal is to secure a future technology pool that has the potential to be used in next generation semiconductor memory development. We conduct in-depth research into various technologies, while also conducting our own research or testing technologies.

Q. What are the capabilities or qualifications that your team requires?

Seo: Because we make actual products, we must have the knowledge and understanding of the production process. We must also be able to analyze issues that occur during the process and provide solutions. Being able to work with others and communication skills are a must because we also collaborate with various relevant teams such as process or design throughout the entire development process.

Choi: Securing future technology requires a strong focus and patience in a certain area because it is a long-term project. The scope of work is also quite comprehensive. We deal with broad range of areas from semiconductor memory elements to processing units and computing systems, meaning that there is a lot to understand or apply. Due to the nature of our work, having curiosity in multiple aspects is helpful.

Kim: Our work is about exploring new technologies, so, you should be aggressive and frequently make challenges. We must catch up with new technologies across various fields, so you should be a fast learner. You also need to collaborate with other global research institutes on various studies, so language skills and the ability to build network are essential.

Q. Please share a few words to those who may join your teams in the future.

Seo: I took part in interviewing candidates for new recruits, and I felt that the candidates lacked confidence when introducing themselves. I understand that interviews are challenging and can make you nervous, but it is also a great opportunity to demonstrate confidence along with your strengths and potential. I also encourage newcomers to become an energetic person. If you have an energetic mind, you will adjust well at SK hynix. Cheers, you’ll do great.

Choi: It is more important to have a mindset of wanting to do well at work rather than having outstanding capabilities. RTC is an organization that works on new technologies to be used in the distant future among the future technologies known today. I look forward to working with someone full of hope for the semiconductor industry.

Kim: Few has all the capabilities and skills I mentioned above from the first place. If you are not afraid of making new challenges, you will eventually be able to work with others, learn, and thrive. We have great colleagues and a wonderful system. Please join us in the amazing journey of preparing for the future.

 

1Heterogeneous computing: A computing system that combines cores like CPUs or GPUs, which separately handled different roles until now.
2Neuromorphic computing: A computing system that imitates data processing of the human brain, changing the current computing structure of the series connection between logic unit and memory semiconductor into a parallel computing mode like the data processing between neurons and synapse.
3PCM: Phase-change memory. A memory semiconductor that stores data using the changes of phase in a certain material. It has both the advantage of a flash memory where you don’t lose data when power is turned off and the advantage of DRAM’s fast processing speed.
4MRAM: Magnetic random-access memory. A non-volatile memory that stores data using magnetic resistance. It has the advantage of being non-volatile like a flash memory, meaning you don’t lose data even when the power is turned off, and the advantage of RAM’s fast processing speed and low power consumption.
5PNM: Process near memory. A convergence-type semiconductor that has a memory semiconductor and logic unit for each module.
6PIM: Processing in memory. A convergence-type semiconductor that has a memory semiconductor and logic unit for each package.
7CIM: Computing in memory. A convergence-type semiconductor that combines memory semiconductor and logic unit within one die.