Car radar technology - a lifesaver goes into series production
Dipl.-Ing. Ralf Bornefeld (Spokesperson)
Dr.-Ing. Walter Hartner
Dr. rer. nat. Rudolf Lachner Infineon Technologies AG, Munich and Regensburg
Driving has become increasingly safer over the past few decades. Yet several thousand traffic accidents still result in severe or fatal injuries every year in Germany. How can the number of accidents be reduced?
Dipl.-Ing. Ralf Bornefeld, Dr.-Ing. Walter Hartner and Dr. rer. nat. Rudolf Lachner have the answer: Introduce active safety systems that automatically intervene if an accident is imminent. The three researchers have laid the foundation for cost-efficient manufacturing of these types of systems, making them affordable for small and medium class cars. They introduced two innovations: a manufacturing technology for radar chips based on silicon and silicon-germanium (SiGe) as well as a packaging technology. The three nominees are employed at Infineon Technologies AG: Ralf Bornefeld heads the Sensors for Automotive Applications division, Rudolf Lachner is responsible for the development of silicon-based millimeter wave technologies, Walter Hartner is Project Manager for eWLB packaging technologies.
A number of passive safety systems which have gradually been included in cars since the 1970's - like ABS, airbags and side airbags - have reduced the number of traffic accident-related injuries and fatalities. It is hoped that active systems will now continue this trend. They are capable of recognizing pedestrians, detecting blind spots, warning drivers if they fail to maintain enough distance from other vehicles and even apply the brakes in an emergency. Each of these functions is made possible by radar sensors: These contain microchips that send and receive electromagnetic millimeter waves in the frequency range of 77 Gigahertz. Driver assist systems using radar function safely and reliably in the dark, inclement weather or when visibility is poor due to dazzling. In the past, these radar systems have been so expensive that they were only installed in premium-class vehicles.
But the Infineon researchers have changed all this with their innovations. Instead of choosing gallium arsenide which is the material commonly used in semiconductor production, they opted for silicon and silicon germanium. This allowed them to make use of proved and tested manufacturing technologies long applied in the large scale production of processors and memory for cell phones or computers. This considerably lowers the cost of manufacturing radar systems - and makes a higher integration possible: the sensor's send and receive functions can now be consolidated in a maximum of two radar chips.
Researchers also adapted a packaging technology to the stricter requirements in the radar high-frequency range which in the past were only able to be used for mobile service applications. With the optimized eWLB technology (embedded Wafer-Level Ball Grid Array) Infineon can integrate radar chips in a robust package prior to delivery which makes further processing easier and less expensive for car system manufacturers.
The combination of both innovations is a breakthrough for radar in the automotive sector. Sensors for active safety systems can thus be manufactured so affordably that they are now also attractive to small car buyers. Within a few years of the introduction of the new manufacturing and packaging technology, they will be available as equipment extras for vehicles of all classes. Affordable radar sensors will also stimulate the development of autonomous vehicles that are capable of driving, steering and parking without driver intervention. Reliable active systems are essential for the safety of autonomous self-driving cars.
Radar technology is of great economic importance: experts from the Strategy Analytics market research institute expect the market for radar sensors to increase by around 4 percent per year over the next few years. Infineon stands to profit - thanks to a technical advantage over the competition. This reinforces Germany's status as a manufacturing center because it is home to most of Infineon's research and development, but also to the manufacturing of the radar chips.
Start of Academic Studies, Physics, Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
1991 - 1992
Erasmus Scholarship at the Imperial College in London, England
1993 - 1994
Master Thesis: „Scanning Tunneling Microscopy of Silicon Carbide“
Master of Science Degree in Physics
1995 - 2000
Development engineer for integration of ferroelectric memories (FeRAM), Siemens AG, Munich
1996 - 1997
Delegation, development cooperation and technology transfer ferroelectric materials, Siemens AG and Symetrix Corp., Colorado Springs (Co) USA
2001 - 2003
Lead-engineer and module owner for Shallow Trench Isolation (STI) for 180nm and 110nm DRAM memory technologies, Infineon Technologies AG, Richmond (VA) USA
Ph.D degree by Prof. Dr. Rainer Waser at the RWTH Aachen, Germany; Dissertation title: „Formation and Characterization of SrBi2Ta2O9 (SBT) Thin Film Capacitor Module“
2003 - 2009
Lead-engineer for the introduction and integration of a novel Deep Trench Isolation (DTI) for different Smart Power Technologies (SPT) for the automotive market, Infineon Technologies AG, Regensburg, Germany
R&D project manager for the eWLB-Radar Package Technology for the automotive market, Infineon Technologies AG, Regensburg, Germany