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EUREKA awards go to microelectronics and cleaner oil production technology

A 3D chip-stacking technology and a system to improve the efficiency of offshore oil and gas production have been awarded this year's EUREKA Lynx and Lillehammer prizes respectively. The awards, each amounting to €10,000 were presented during a recent ceremony in Rome, I...

A 3D chip-stacking technology and a system to improve the efficiency of offshore oil and gas production have been awarded this year's EUREKA Lynx and Lillehammer prizes respectively. The awards, each amounting to €10,000 were presented during a recent ceremony in Rome, Italy. The Lynx award was established in 2001 during the Spanish Chairmanship of EUREKA to highlight fast-growing, high-tech small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which offer good prospects for private investors. This year's winner is French SME 3D Plus, which developed a high-density, 3D chip-stacking technology to improve the cost-effectiveness of so-called system-in-package devices (SIP). As mobile phones and their internal components get smaller, the electronics industry is on the lookout for the best way to integrate all this miniaturised technology. One solution has been the development of SIP devices - these combine a series of individually optimised integrated circuits, such as memory chips and microprocessors, into one module. These elements are then vertically stacked in wafers - containing hundreds of chips - and placed in a single polymer package. However, such an approach has proven problematic for a number of reasons. The wafers must come from the same chip vendor, and all the individual chips must have exactly the same dimensions. The process also involves etching holes directly into the silicon substrates, which is costly. In addition, productivity yields are often low, since it is impossible to guarantee 100% the quality of the wafers. In answer to these problems, 3D Plus has come up with an alternative method which involves rebuilding wafers from different types of chips and then stacking and gluing them with a polymer. Advantages of this approach include the ability to use standard wafers from any manufacturer without making any changes, which is a major saving. Moreover, high yields are ensured as all chips are tested electrically and qualified before stacking, ensuring a rebuilt wafer of reliable quality. Following the EUREKA project, 3D Plus signed an agreement with a semiconductor company to develop the process further. It has also received requests to develop devices using its technology, such as an implantable muscle micro stimulator and a high capacity smart card. 'Winning the EUREKA Lynx award is very important to us,' says 3D Plus' CEO Christian Val. 'It provides recognition of our success and will help in all our marketing, as well as in communications with the public authorities in France.' Meanwhile, this year's Lillehammer award went to world's first full field sub-sea separator, developed as a result of SUBSEA SEPARATOR, a Dutch-Norwegian partnership. When oil and gas are pumped up from the sea, they are accompanied by a certain amount of water and sand. These have to be removed, cleaned and discharged back into the sea before the oil and gas can be processed. The system developed by the EUREKA project carries out part of the processing on the sea floor and re-injects water into injection reservoirs. This avoids the water flowing up from the sub-sea well to the production platform, leaving a much larger part of the system - pipelines and processing equipment - for the oil and gas content. Since less water will flow into the pipes, it estimated that the new technology will also result in less oil residue being discharged into the sea. Every day, up to 100,000 barrels of water with some residual small oil droplets will instead be re-injected into a separate sub-sea well, where it can be cleaned. 'By using this technology, you can exploit an oilfield much deeper - so, for instance, you can recover five to 10% more from the original reserves, an enormous advantage,' explains Toine Hendriks, senior process engineer for CDS Engineering, the Dutch partner in the project. 'It is also expected that this technology will facilitate new oil field developments in deeper and more remote areas, an advantage for the future as most of the easy accessible oil has already been produced. CDS, which is now an FMC Technologies subsidiary, was a small company and this was an expensive project as we literally had to build a 1:1 scale separator in our test lab. Without EUREKA, funding the project would have been difficult,' he added.

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France, Netherlands, Norway