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United States Patent Application 20170104004
Kind Code A1
Quandt; Jonathan R. ;   et al. April 13, 2017

Methods for Cell Boundary Encroachment and Semiconductor Devices Implementing the Same

Abstract

A semiconductor device is disclosed to include a plurality of cells. Each of the cells has a respective outer cell boundary defined to circumscribe the cell in an orthogonal manner. Also, each of the cells includes circuitry for performing one or more logic functions. This circuitry includes a plurality of conductive features defined in one or more levels of the cell. One or more of the conductive features in at least one level of a given cell is an encroaching feature positioned to encroach by an encroachment distance into an exclusion zone. The exclusion zone occupies an area within the cell defined by an exclusion distance extending perpendicularly inward into the given cell from a first segment of the outer cell boundary. The exclusion distance is based on a design rule distance representing a minimum separation distance required between conductive features in adjacently placed cells on the semiconductor device.


Inventors: Quandt; Jonathan R.; (San Jose, CA) ; Becker; Scott T.; (Scotts Valley, CA) ; Gandhi; Dhrumil; (Cupertino, CA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Tela Innovations, Inc.

Los Gatos

CA

US
Family ID: 1000002367545
Appl. No.: 15/385724
Filed: December 20, 2016


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
15051532Feb 23, 20169530795
15385724
14187171Feb 21, 20149269702
15051532
12904134Oct 13, 20108661392
14187171
61251279Oct 13, 2009

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: H01L 27/11803 20130101; H01L 27/0207 20130101; H01L 23/528 20130101; H01L 21/823475 20130101
International Class: H01L 27/118 20060101 H01L027/118; H01L 23/528 20060101 H01L023/528; H01L 27/02 20060101 H01L027/02; H01L 21/8234 20060101 H01L021/8234

Claims



1. A semiconductor device, comprising: a first cell including circuitry for performing one or more logic functions, the first cell including a first plurality of conductive structures formed in a given level of the semiconductor device, the first plurality of conductive structures including a two-dimensionally varying conductive structure that includes a first segment oriented to extend lengthwise in a first direction across the first cell and a second segment oriented to extend lengthwise in a second direction across the first cell, the second direction perpendicular to the first direction, and both the first direction and the second direction parallel to a substrate of the semiconductor device, the second segment formed contiguous with the first segment, the second segment located within an exclusion zone along a side boundary of the first cell; and a second cell including circuitry for performing one or more logic functions, the second cell placed side-by-side with the first cell with a side boundary of the second cell aligned with the side boundary of the first cell, the second cell including a second plurality of conductive structures formed in the given level of the semiconductor device, the second cell including a spacing allowance region located along the side boundary of the second cell, the spacing allowance region sized to provide at least a design rule spacing between the second segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure in the first cell and any of the second plurality of conductive structures in the second cell.

2. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 1, wherein the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell includes a third segment oriented to extend lengthwise in the first direction across the first cell, the third segment formed contiguous with the second segment.

3. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 2, wherein the first segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell has a lengthwise centerline oriented in the first direction, and wherein the third segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell has a lengthwise centerline oriented in the first direction, wherein the first segment and the third segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell have their lengthwise centerlines positioned on respective virtual lines of a virtual grate, wherein the virtual grate is defined as a set of parallel virtual lines extending in the first direction across the given level of the semiconductor device, wherein adjacent virtual lines of the virtual grate are separated from each other by a virtual grate pitch as measured in the second direction.

4. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 3, wherein the first segment and the third segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell have their lengthwise centerlines separated by three times the virtual grate pitch as measured in the second direction.

5. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 4, wherein the first plurality of conductive structures of the first cell includes a first linear-shaped conductive structure and a second linear-shaped conductive structure, the first linear-shaped conductive structure and the second linear-shaped conductive structure positioned between the first segment and the third segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell.

6. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 5, wherein the first linear-shaped conductive structure has a lengthwise centerline oriented in the first direction, wherein the second linear-shaped conductive structure has a lengthwise centerline oriented in the first direction, wherein the first and second linear-shaped conductive structures have their lengthwise centerlines positioned on respective virtual lines of the virtual grate.

7. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 6, wherein a first end of the first linear-shaped conductive structure is substantially aligned in the first direction with a first end of the second linear-shaped conductive structure.

8. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 7, wherein the first end of the first linear-shaped conductive structure and the first end of the second linear-shaped conductive structure are positioned next to and spaced apart from the second segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell.

9. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 8, wherein a second end of the first linear-shaped conductive structure is substantially aligned in the first direction with a second end of the second linear-shaped conductive structure.

10. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 9, wherein an end of the first segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell is substantially aligned in the first direction with both the second end of the first linear-shaped conductive structure and the second end of the second linear-shaped conductive structure.

11. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 10, wherein an end of the third segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell is substantially aligned in the first direction with both the second end of the first linear-shaped conductive structure and the second end of the second linear-shaped conductive structure.

12. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 11, wherein the side boundary of the first cell along which the exclusion zone is located is a first side boundary of the first cell, wherein the first cell includes a second side boundary located opposite the first cell from the first side boundary of the first cell, wherein the first cell includes a spacing allowance region located between the second side boundary of the first cell and each of the end of the first segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure and the second end of the first linear-shaped conductive structure and the second end of the second linear-shaped conductive structure and the end of the third segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure.

13. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 12, wherein a size of the spacing allowance region of the first cell as measured in the first direction is substantially equal to a size of the spacing allowance region of the second cell as measured in the first direction.

14. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 13, wherein the first plurality of conductive structures of the first cell includes a third linear-shaped conductive structure having a lengthwise centerline oriented in the first direction, the third linear-shaped conductive structure having its lengthwise centerline positioned one virtual grate pitch as measured in the second direction away from the lengthwise centerline of the first segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure of the first cell.

15. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 14, wherein the exclusion zone along the first side boundary of the first cell is a first exclusion zone, wherein the third linear-shaped conductive structure has a first end located within a second exclusion zone along the second side boundary of the first cell.

16. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 15, wherein said spacing allowance region of the first cell is a first spacing allowance region of the first cell, wherein the first cell includes a second spacing allowance region located between a second end of the third linear-shaped conductive structure and the first side boundary of the first cell, wherein the second spacing allowance region is sized to provide at least a design rule spacing between the second end of the third linear-shaped conductive structure and any of the second plurality of conductive structures in the second cell.

17. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 16, wherein the first plurality of conductive structures of the first cell includes a fourth linear-shaped conductive structure having a lengthwise centerline oriented in the first direction, the fourth linear-shaped conductive structure having its lengthwise centerline positioned one virtual grate pitch as measured in the second direction away from the lengthwise centerline of the third segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure.

18. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 17, wherein the fourth linear-shaped conductive structure has a first end located within the second exclusion zone along the second side boundary of the first cell.

19. The semiconductor device as recited in claim 18, wherein the first cell includes a third spacing allowance region located between a second end of the fourth linear-shaped conductive structure and the first side boundary of the first cell, wherein the third spacing allowance region is sized to provide at least a design rule spacing between the second end of the fourth linear-shaped conductive structure and any of the second plurality of conductive structures in the second cell.

20. A method for fabricating a semiconductor device, comprising: forming a first cell including circuitry for performing one or more logic functions, wherein forming the first cell includes forming a first plurality of conductive structures in a given level of the semiconductor device, the first plurality of conductive structures including a two-dimensionally varying conductive structure that includes a first segment oriented to extend lengthwise in a first direction across the first cell and a second segment oriented to extend lengthwise in a second direction across the first cell, the second direction perpendicular to the first direction, and both the first direction and the second direction parallel to a substrate of the semiconductor device, the second segment formed contiguous with the first segment, the second segment located within an exclusion zone along a side boundary of the first cell; and forming a second cell including circuitry for performing one or more logic functions, the second cell placed side-by-side with the first cell with a side boundary of the second cell aligned with the side boundary of the first cell, wherein forming the second cell includes forming a second plurality of conductive structures in the given level of the semiconductor device, the second cell including a spacing allowance region located along the side boundary of the second cell, the spacing allowance region sized to provide at least a design rule spacing between the second segment of the two-dimensionally varying conductive structure in the first cell and any of the second plurality of conductive structures in the second cell.
Description



CLAIM OF PRIORITY

[0001] This application is a continuation application under 35 U.S.C. 120 of prior U.S. application Ser. No. 15/051,532, filed on Feb. 23, 2016, which is a continuation application under 35 U.S.C. 120 of prior U.S. application Ser. No. 14/187,171, filed on Feb. 21, 2014, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 9,269,702, on Feb. 23, 2016, which is a divisional application under 35 U.S.C. 121 of prior U.S. application Ser. No. 12/904,134, filed Oct. 13, 2010, issued as U.S. Pat. No. 8,661,392, on Feb. 25, 2014, which claims priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/251,279, filed Oct. 13, 2009. The disclosure of each above-identified patent application is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

[0002] In modern semiconductor chip ("chip") design, standard cells are placed on the chip to define a particular logic function. To ensure that each standard cell will be manufacturable when arbitrarily placed on the chip, each standard cell is defined to have an edge exclusion zone sized equal to one-half of a design rule spacing requirement between adjacent conductive features. In this manner, when any two standard cells are placed next to each other, their combined exclusion zone sizes at their interfacing boundaries will equal at least the design rule spacing requirement between adjacent conductive features. Thus, the exclusion zone enables features to be placed arbitrarily within a standard cell without concern for cell-to-cell interface problems. However, when many standard cells are placed together on the chip, the edge exclusion zones associated with the standard cells can combine to occupy an expensive amount of chip area.

[0003] In view of the foregoing, it is of interest to optimize cell layout and placement such that chip area and routing resources can be most efficiently utilized, particularly when cells are defined according to a constrained layout architecture.

SUMMARY

[0004] In one embodiment, a semiconductor device is disclosed to include a plurality of cells. Each of the plurality of cells has a respective outer cell boundary defined to circumscribe the cell in an orthogonal manner. Also, each of the plurality of cells includes circuitry for performing one or more logic functions. This circuitry includes a plurality of conductive features defined in one or more levels of the cell. Within the semiconductor device, one or more of the conductive features in at least one level of a given cell is an encroaching feature positioned to encroach by an encroachment distance into an exclusion zone. The exclusion zone occupies an area within the cell defined by an exclusion distance extending perpendicularly inward into the given cell from a first segment of the outer cell boundary. The exclusion distance is based on a design rule distance. The design rule distance is a minimum separation distance required between conductive features in adjacently placed cells on the semiconductor device.

[0005] In one embodiment, a semiconductor device is disclosed to include a plurality of cells. Each of the plurality of cells has a respective outer cell boundary defined to circumscribe the cell in an orthogonal manner. Also, each of the plurality of cells includes circuitry for performing one or more logic functions. This circuitry includes a plurality of conductive features defined in one or more levels of the cell. At least one instance of a given cell is defined on the semiconductor device in accordance with any one of multiple versions of the given cell or combination thereof. The multiple versions of the given cell include a first version of the given cell having an encroachment region defined within a particular cell level adjacent to a first segment of the outer cell boundary. The first version of the given cell also includes a spacing allowance region defined within the particular cell level adjacent to a second segment of the outer cell boundary located opposite the given cell from the first segment. The multiple versions of the given cell also include a second version of the given cell having the encroachment region defined within the particular cell level adjacent to both the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary. The multiple versions of the given cell also include a third version of the given cell having the spacing allowance region defined within the particular cell level adjacent to both the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary. The encroachment region is defined as a peripheral region of the particular cell level of the given cell within which at least one encroaching feature is positioned to encroach by an encroachment distance into an exclusion zone. The exclusion zone occupies an area within the given cell defined by an exclusion distance extending perpendicularly inward into the given cell from the outer cell boundary adjacent to the encroachment region. The exclusion distance is based on a design rule distance. The spacing allowance region is defined to extend perpendicularly inward into the given cell from the outer cell boundary by a spacing allowance distance equal to at least the encroachment distance plus the exclusion distance. The spacing allowance region within the particular cell level does not include any conductive features.

[0006] In one embodiment, a cell library stored in a digital format on a computer readable storage medium is disclosed to include one or more layouts of a cell. The cell has an outer cell boundary defined to circumscribe the cell in an orthogonal manner. The cell is defined to include circuitry for performing one or more logic functions. Each of the layouts for the cell include layout shapes for conductive features in one or more levels of the cell. The layouts of the cell include a first layout of the cell having an encroachment region defined within a given level of the cell adjacent to a first segment of the outer cell boundary. The encroachment region includes at least one encroaching layout shape positioned to encroach by an encroachment distance into an exclusion zone. The exclusion zone occupies an area within the given cell defined by an exclusion distance extending perpendicularly inward into the cell from the first segment of the outer cell boundary. The exclusion distance is based on a design rule distance. The first layout of the cell also includes a spacing allowance region defined within the given level of the cell adjacent to a second segment of the outer cell boundary, located opposite the cell from the first segment of the outer cell boundary. The spacing allowance region extends perpendicularly inward into the cell from the second segment of the outer cell boundary by a spacing allowance distance equal to at least the encroachment distance of the encroachment region plus the exclusion distance. The spacing allowance region in the cell level does not include any layout shapes.

[0007] Other aspects and advantages of the invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, illustrating by way of example the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] FIG. 1A is an illustration showing a semiconductor chip defined to include a logic block, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0009] FIG. 1B shows placement of a number of cells A-Z of various logic function in rows within the logic block, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0010] FIG. 2 shows an example of virtual lines defined within the dynamic array architecture, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0011] FIG. 3A shows a level of a cell (Cell A) in which layout shapes are defined to comply with a design rule distance buffer requirement at the left and right cell edge boundaries, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0012] FIG. 3B shows a variation of the Cell A of FIG. 3A, in which certain layout shapes are allowed to encroach into the design rule distance buffer at the left or right cell boundaries, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0013] FIG. 4A shows an example of two cells (Cell A and Cell B) defined in accordance with the common boundary encroachment specification, as described above with regard to FIG. 3B, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0014] FIG. 4B shows flipped versions of Cell A and Cell B placed next to each other, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0015] FIG. 5A shows a first variation of a mirror cell (Cell C-v1) in which the left common boundary encroachment specification, as shown at the left boundary of Cell A of FIG. 3B, is applied to both the left and right boundaries of the mirror cell (Cell C-v1), in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 5B shows a second variation of the mirror cell (Cell C-v2) in which the right common boundary encroachment specification, as shown at the right boundary in Cell A of FIG. 3B, is applied to both the left and right boundaries of the mirror cell (Cell C-v2), in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0017] FIG. 6A shows Cell A-flipped placed to the right of Cell C-v1, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 6B shows Cell C-v2 placed to the right of Cell A-flipped, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0019] FIG. 7A shows an example of a cell (Cell E) that includes a two-dimensionally varying feature E3 and a number of linear-shaped features, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0020] FIG. 7B shows another example cell (Cell F) that includes a two-dimensionally varying feature F4 and a number of linear-shaped features, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0021] FIG. 7C shows side-by-side placement of Cells E and F of FIGS. 7A and 7B, respectively, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0022] FIG. 8 shows an example cell layout for an AND logic circuit that implements the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0023] FIG. 9A shows a particular level L-x of the Cell J that has a right boundary encroachment specification defined by encroachment regions 951 and 953, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0024] FIG. 9B shows the same particular level L-x of the Cell K that has a right boundary encroachment specification defined by an encroachment region 959, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0025] FIG. 9C shows a first version of a Cell M that includes spacing allowance regions 961, 963, and 965, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0026] FIG. 10A shows a layout of a level of an example Cell P-v1, in which the layout features have a width size W of odd number, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0027] FIG. 10B shows a layout of a second version of Cell P (Cell P-v2), in which the cell is both flipped and shifted, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0028] FIG. 11A shows an example of an interrelationship between the encroachment distance, exclusion distance, and spacing allowance region distance, with an encroachment feature that overlaps its cell boundary, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention; and

[0029] FIG. 11B shows a variation of FIG. 11A, with an encroachment feature that does not overlap its cell boundary, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0030] In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process operations have not been described in detail in order not to unnecessarily obscure the present invention.

Cell Description

[0031] FIG. 1A is an illustration showing a semiconductor chip ("chip") 101 defined to include a logic block 103, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The logic block 103 includes integrated circuit devices in the form of multi-level structures defined on a silicon substrate of the chip 101. At a substrate level, transistor devices with diffusion regions are formed. In subsequent levels, interconnect metallization lines are patterned and electrically connected to the transistor devices to define a desired integrated circuit device. Also, patterned conductive layers are insulated from other conductive layers by dielectric materials. The structural features used to define the diffusion regions, transistor devices, metallization lines, interconnects, etc. within each level of the chip 101 are defined according to a specified layout. Additionally, the global layout for a given level of the chip 101 may be segmented into many small layout areas, where each layout area is associated with a given logic construct. Moreover, layout areas within multiple levels of the chip 101 within a given vertical column of the chip 101 can be integrated together to form a logic unit referred to as a cell.

[0032] A cell, as referenced herein, represents an abstraction of a logic function, and encapsulates lower-level integrated circuit layouts for implementing the logic function. It should be understood that a given logic function can be represented by multiple cell variations, wherein the cell variations may be differentiated by feature size, performance, and process compensation technique (PCT) processing. For example, multiple cell variations for a given logic function may be differentiated by power consumption, signal timing, current leakage, chip area, OPC (optical proximity correction), RET (reticle enhancement technology), etc. It should also be understood that each cell description includes the layouts for the cell in each level of a chip within the associated vertical column of the chip, as required to implement the logic function of the cell. More specifically, a cell description may include layouts for the cell in each level of the chip extending from the substrate level up through a particular interconnect level.

[0033] FIG. 1B shows placement of a number of cells A-Z of various logic function in rows within the logic block 103, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. In this example embodiment, consider that the plurality of cells A-Z are available for use within the logic block 103, where each of cells A-Z is defined to perform a different logic function. In this example embodiment, the logic block 103 may be defined by placement of cells A-Z within rows 1-10 of the logic block 103, as shown in FIG. 1B. In this exemplary embodiment, the width of the cells as measured from left-to-right across a given row can vary from cell-to-cell. However, the height of the cells as measured vertically within a given row is essentially the same from cell-to-cell, thereby allowing the logic block 103 to be populated by adjacently defined rows of cells of consistent height. Also, in some embodiments, the height of cells may vary from row-to-row and/or within a row.

Dynamic Array Architecture

[0034] Generally speaking, a dynamic array architecture is provided to address semiconductor manufacturing process variability associated with a continually increasing lithographic gap. In the area of semiconductor manufacturing, lithographic gap is defined as the difference between the minimum size of a feature to be defined and the wavelength of light used to render the feature in the lithographic process, wherein the feature size is less than the wavelength of the light. Current lithographic processes utilize a light wavelength of 193 nm. However, current feature sizes are as small as 45 nm and are expected to get even smaller. With a size of 45 nm, the shapes are three times smaller than the wavelength of the light used to define the shapes. Also, considering that the interaction radius of light is about five light wavelengths, it should be appreciated that shapes exposed with a 193 nm light source will influence the exposure of shapes approximately 5*193 nm (965 nm) away.

[0035] In the dynamic array architecture, layout features in a given layer are shaped and spaced such that constructive and destructive interference of the light from neighboring features will be optimized to produce the best rendering of all features in the neighborhood. The feature-to-feature spacing in a given layer is proportional to the wavelength of the light used to expose the features. The light used to expose each feature within about a five light wavelength distance from a given feature will serve to enhance the exposure of the given feature to some extent. The exploitation of constructive interference of the standing light waves used to expose neighboring features enables the manufacturing equipment capability to be maximized and not be limited by concerns regarding light interactions during the lithography process.

[0036] In the dynamic array architecture, layout features are defined along a regular-spaced virtual grate (or regular-spaced virtual grid) in a number of levels of a cell, i.e., in a number of levels of a semiconductor chip, such as chip 101. The virtual grate is defined by a set of equally spaced, parallel virtual lines extending across a given level in a given chip area. The equal spacing, as measured perpendicularly between adjacent virtual lines of the virtual grate, is defined as the virtual grate pitch. In one embodiment, the layout features are sized substantially smaller than the wavelength of the light used in the lithographic process to form the physical shapes corresponding to the layout features.

[0037] In one embodiment, the virtual grate of a given level is oriented to be substantially perpendicular to the virtual grate of an adjacent level. For example, in this embodiment, a virtual grate for the first interconnect level (M1 level) (not shown) extends in a direction perpendicular to both the gate level and M2 level virtual grates. However, it should be appreciated, that in some embodiments, the virtual grate of a given level may be oriented either perpendicular or parallel to the virtual grate of an adjacent level.

[0038] FIG. 2 shows an example of virtual lines 801A-801E defined within the dynamic array architecture, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Virtual lines 801A-801E extend across the layout in a parallel manner, with a perpendicular spacing therebetween equal to a specified pitch 807. For illustrative purposes, complementary diffusion regions 803 and 805 are shown in FIG. 2. It should be understood that the diffusion regions 803 and 805 are defined in a diffusion level below a gate level. Also, it should be understood that the diffusion regions 803 and 805 are provided by way of example and in no way represent any limitation on diffusion region size, shape, and/or placement within the diffusion level relative to the dynamic array architecture.

[0039] Within the dynamic array architecture, a feature layout channel is defined about a given virtual line so as to extend between virtual lines adjacent to the given virtual line. For example, feature layout channels 801A-1 through 801E-1 are defined about virtual lines 801A through 801E, respectively. It should be understood that each virtual line has a corresponding feature layout channel. Also, for virtual lines positioned adjacent to an edge of a prescribed layout space, e.g., adjacent to a cell boundary, the corresponding feature layout channel extends as if there were a virtual line outside the prescribed layout space, as illustrated by feature layout channels 801A-1 and 801E-1. It should be further understood that each feature layout channel is defined to extend along an entire length of its corresponding virtual line.

[0040] FIG. 2 further shows a number of exemplary layout features 809-823 defined in accordance with the feature layout channels 801A-1 through 801E-1 corresponding to virtual lines 801A through 801E, respectively. Within the dynamic array architecture, layout features associated with a given virtual line are defined within the feature layout channel associated with the virtual line. Also, physical contact is prohibited between layout features defined in feature layout channels that are associated with adjacent virtual lines.

[0041] A contiguous layout feature can include both a portion which defines an active part of a circuit, and a portion that does not define a part of the circuit. For example, in the gate level, a contiguous layout feature can extend over both a diffusion region and a dielectric region of an underlying chip level. In one embodiment, each portion of a gate level layout feature that forms a gate electrode of a transistor is positioned to be substantially centered upon a given virtual line. Furthermore, in this embodiment, portions of the gate level layout feature that do not form a gate electrode of a transistor can be positioned within the feature layout channel associated with the given virtual line. Therefore, a given gate level layout feature can be defined essentially anywhere within a feature layout channel, so long as gate electrode portions of the given gate level layout feature are centered upon the virtual line corresponding to the given feature layout channel, and so long as the given gate level layout feature complies with design rule spacing requirements relative to other gate level layout features in adjacent feature layout channels.

[0042] As shown in FIG. 2, the layout feature 809 is defined within the feature layout channel 801A-1 associated with virtual line 801A. Some portions of layout feature 809 are substantially centered upon the virtual line 801A. Also, other portions of layout feature 809 maintain design rule spacing requirements with layout features 811 and 813 defined within adjacent feature layout channel 801B-1. Similarly, layout features 811-823 are defined within their respective feature layout channel, and include portions substantially centered upon the virtual line corresponding to their respective feature layout channel. Also, it should be appreciated that each of layout features 811-823 maintains design rule spacing requirements with layout features defined within adjacent feature layout channels, and avoids physical contact with any other layout feature defined within adjacent feature layout channels.

[0043] As illustrated by the example feature layout channels 801A-1 through 801E-1 of FIG. 2, each feature layout channel is associated with a given virtual line and corresponds to a layout region that extends along the given virtual line and perpendicularly outward in each opposing direction from the given virtual line to a closest of either an adjacent virtual line or a virtual line outside a layout boundary. Also, it should be understood that each layout feature is defined within its feature layout channel without physically contacting another layout feature defined within an adjoining feature layout channel.

[0044] Some layout features may have one or more contact head portions defined at any number of locations along their length. A contact head portion of a given layout feature is defined as a segment of the layout feature having a height and a width of sufficient size to receive a contact structure, wherein "width" is defined across the substrate in a direction perpendicular to the virtual line of the given layout feature, and wherein "height" is defined across the substrate in a direction parallel to the virtual line of the given layout feature. It should be appreciated that a contact head of a layout feature, when viewed from above, can be defined by essentially any layout shape, including a square or a rectangle. Also, depending on layout requirements and circuit design, a given contact head portion of a layout feature may or may not have a contact defined thereabove.

[0045] In one embodiment, the layout features are defined to provide a finite number of controlled layout shape-to-shape lithographic interactions which can be accurately predicted and optimized for in manufacturing and design processes. In this embodiment, the layout features are defined to avoid layout shape-to-shape spatial relationships which would introduce adverse lithographic interaction within the layout that cannot be accurately predicted and mitigated with high probability. However, it should be understood that changes in direction of layout features within their feature layout channels are acceptable when corresponding lithographic interactions are predictable and manageable.

[0046] In one embodiment, each layout feature of a given level is substantially centered upon one of the virtual lines of the virtual grate associated with the given level. A layout feature is considered to be substantially centered upon a particular line of a virtual grate when a deviation in alignment between the centerline of the layout feature and the particular line of the virtual grate is sufficiently small so as to not reduce a manufacturing process window from what would be achievable with a true alignment between of the centerline of the layout feature and the line of the virtual grate. Therefore, in this embodiment, if there are layout features placed in different chip levels according to virtual grates of rational spatial relationship, the layout features will be aligned at a spatial frequency defined by the rational spatial relationship. In one embodiment, the above-mentioned manufacturing process window is defined by a lithographic domain of focus and exposure that yields an acceptable fidelity of the layout feature. In one embodiment, the fidelity of a layout feature is defined by a characteristic dimension of the layout feature.

[0047] In the dynamic array architecture, variations in a vertical cross-section shape of an as-fabricated layout feature can be tolerated to an extent, so long as the variation in the vertical cross-section shape is predictable from a manufacturing perspective and does not adversely impact the manufacture of the given layout feature or its neighboring layout features. In this regard, the vertical cross-section shape corresponds to a cut of the as-fabricated layout feature in a plane perpendicular to both the centerline of the layout feature and the substrate of the chip. It should be appreciated that variation in the vertical cross-section of an as-fabricated layout feature along its length can correspond to a variation in width of the layout feature along its length. Therefore, the dynamic array architecture also accommodates variation in the width of an as-fabricated layout feature along its length, so long as the width variation is predictable from a manufacturing perspective and does not adversely impact the manufacture of the layout feature or its neighboring layout features. Additionally, different layout features within a given level can be designed to have the same width or different widths.

[0048] In one embodiment, within a given level defined according to the dynamic array architecture, proximate ends of adjacent, co-aligned linear-shaped layout features may be separated from each other by a substantially uniform gap. More specifically, in this embodiment, adjacent ends of linear-shaped layout features defined along a common line of a virtual grate are separated by an end gap, and such end gaps within the level associated with the virtual grate may be defined to span a substantially uniform distance. Additionally, in one embodiment, a size of the end gaps is minimized within a manufacturing process capability so as to optimize filling of a given level with linear-shaped layout features.

[0049] Also, in the dynamic array architecture, a level can be defined to have any number of virtual grate lines occupied by any number of layout features. In one example, a given level can be defined such that all lines of its virtual grate are occupied by at least one layout feature. In another example, a given level can be defined such that some lines of its virtual grate are occupied by at least one layout feature, and other lines of its virtual grate are vacant, i.e., not occupied by any layout features. Furthermore, in a given level, any number of successively adjacent virtual grate lines can be left vacant. Also, the occupancy versus vacancy of virtual grate lines by layout features in a given level may be defined according to a pattern or repeating pattern of layout features across the given level.

[0050] Additionally, within the dynamic array architecture, vias and contacts are defined to interconnect a number of the layout features in various levels so as to form a number of functional electronic devices, e.g., transistors, and electronic circuits. Layout features for the vias and contacts can be aligned to a virtual grid, wherein a specification of this virtual grid is a function of the specifications of the virtual grates associated with the various levels to which the vias and contacts will connect. Thus, a number of the layout features in various levels form functional components of an electronic circuit. Additionally, some of the layout features within various levels may be non-functional with respect to an electronic circuit, but are manufactured nonetheless so as to reinforce manufacturing of neighboring layout features.

[0051] It should be understood that the dynamic array architecture is defined to enable accurate prediction of semiconductor device manufacturability with a high probability, even when layout features of the semiconductor device are sized smaller than a wavelength of light used to render the layout features in a lithographic manufacturing process. Additionally, it should be understood that the dynamic array architecture is defined by placement of layout features on a regular-spaced grate (or regular-spaced grid) in at least one level of a cell, such that layout features in a given level of the cell are confined within their feature layout channel, and such that layout features in adjacent feature layout channels do not physically contact each other. Furthermore, it should be understood that the dynamic array architecture can be applied to one or more chip levels. For example, in one embodiment, only the gate level of the chip is defined according to the dynamic array architectures. In another embodiment, the gate level and one or more interconnect levels are defined according to the dynamic array architecture.

[0052] It should be understood that in some embodiments the dynamic array architecture may only be applied to a portion of one chip level, with overlying portions of other chip levels unconstrained with respect to dynamic array architecture restrictions. For example, in one embodiment, the gate electrode level is defined to comply with the dynamic array architecture, and the higher interconnect levels are defined in an unconstrained manner, i.e., in a non-dynamic array manner. In this embodiment, the gate electrode level is defined by a virtual grate and its corresponding feature layout channels within which gate electrode level conductive features are defined, as discussed above. Also, in this embodiment, the layout features of the non-dynamic array higher interconnect levels can be unconstrained with regard to a virtual grate and associated feature layout channels. For instance, in this particular embodiment, layout features in any interconnect level above the gate electrode level can include bends so as to form arbitrary two-dimensionally shaped layout features. As an alternative to the above-mentioned embodiment, other embodiments can exist in which multiple chip levels are defined according to the dynamic array architecture.

[0053] It should be understood that the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein are equally applicable to any embodiment that uses the dynamic array architecture, regardless of the number of chip levels that are defined according to the dynamic array architecture. Additionally, although the cell boundary encroachment techniques are described below within the exemplary context of the dynamic array architecture, it should be understood that the principles of the cell boundary encroachment techniques are equally applicable to essentially any cell layout, including non-dynamic array architecture layouts, in which it is beneficial to allow certain non-continuous layout shapes to encroach within a design rule spacing buffer at a cell boundary, while ensuring that neighboring layout shapes in an adjacently placed cell are spaced sufficiently far away to ensure compliance with global shape-to-shape design rule spacing requirements.

Cell Boundary Encroachment Technique

[0054] FIG. 3A shows a level of a cell (Cell A) in which layout shapes are defined to comply with a design rule distance buffer requirement at the left and right cell edge boundaries, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. A design rule distance, as used herein, is a minimum spacing distance required between conductive features in adjacently placed cells on the semiconductor chip to ensure proper fabrication of the conductive features. The design rule distance may be set by a fabrication facility based on the capabilities of their fabrication equipment and processes. Also, the design rule distance may vary between different cell levels. Moreover, the design rule distance can be defined as a function of various layout feature size parameters. Also, the design rule distance requirement can be defined by a combination of particular design rules. For example, in the gate electrode level, the design rule distance can be a combination of gate electrode width and spacing. For interconnect levels and contact or via interactions, the design rule distance can be a combination of interconnect feature overlap of contact/via, interconnect feature line-end-spacing, and in some cases, contact width, among others. Additionally, in one embodiment, the design rule distance, as used herein, can be a combination of established width and spacing design rules or a combination of established enclosure, width, and spacing design rules, or other appropriate combination of established design rules. For discussion purposes, the design rule distance referred to herein represents a distance value that is appropriate for a corresponding layout context in which it is applied.

[0055] In one embodiment, the design rule distance is within a range extending from about 30 nm (nanometers) to about 90 nm. In another embodiment, the design rule distance is less than 70 nm. The design rule distance buffer extends inside of the cell boundaries by a set fraction or multiple of one or more design rule values. In one embodiment, the design rule distance buffer is set at one-half of an established design rule spacing value. In another embodiment, the design rule distance buffer is set at one-third of the established design rule spacing value. It should be understood that in other embodiments, the design rule distance buffer can be set at other fractions or multiples of an established design rule value or combination of established design rule values.

[0056] In the example of FIG. 3A, layout shapes A1-A8 are placed along eight tracks T1-T8. In the dynamic array architecture, the tracks T1-T8 of FIG. 3A would correspond to virtual lines, and the layout shapes would be placed within feature layout channels respectively corresponding to those virtual lines. The layout shapes A1 and A8 on the bottom track T1 and top track T8, respectively, may define power/ground conductors and extend to the left and right cell boundaries so as to connect in a continuous manner with a corresponding layout shape in an adjacently placed cell. Layout shapes that extend completely to the cell boundary are referred to as "continuous shapes." The other layout shapes A2 through A7 are defined to ensure that they do not encroach within the design rule distance buffer at the left and right cell boundaries. Layout shapes that do not extend completely to the cell boundary are referred to as "non-continuous shapes." When cells are placed next to each other, layout shapes proximate to a given cell boundary interface along a given track will either extend continuously through the cell boundary interface or will be spaced apart by at least a full design rule compliant spacing amount.

[0057] Cell boundary encroachment techniques are disclosed herein to optimize cell area utilization by providing a systematic method for allowing encroachment of non-continuous layout shapes into the design rule distance buffer at the cell boundary, while preserving global shape-to-shape design rule spacing integrity. FIG. 3B shows a variation of the Cell A of FIG. 3A, in which certain layout shapes A2, A3, A6, and A7 are allowed to encroach into the design rule distance buffer at the left or right cell boundaries, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, each of layout shapes A2 and A7 are defined to encroach within the design rule distance buffer at the left boundary of Cell A, as indicated by encroachment regions 901, with corresponding spacing allowance regions 903 at the opposite ends of the respective tracks upon which layout shapes A2 and A7 are placed. Each of layout shapes A3 and A6 are defined to encroach within the design rule distance buffer at the right boundary of the cell as indicated by encroachment regions 901, with corresponding spacing allowance regions 903 at the opposite ends of the respective tracks upon which layout shapes A3 and A6 are placed.

[0058] A boundary encroachment specification of a given track in a given cell level is defined by which end of the given track, if any, allows for layout shape encroachment within the design rule distance buffer at the cell boundary, and which end of the given track, if any, requires a spacing allowance region at the cell boundary. With regard to Cell A of FIG. 3B, the boundary encroachment specification of each track T1-T8 is as follows:

[0059] Track T1: No encroachment allowance.

[0060] Track T2: Left side encroachment region. Right side spacing allowance region.

[0061] Track T3: Right side encroachment region. Left side spacing allowance region.

[0062] Track T4: No encroachment allowance.

[0063] Track T5: No encroachment allowance.

[0064] Track T6: Right side encroachment allowance. Left side spacing allowance region.

[0065] Track T7: Left side encroachment region. Right side spacing allowance region.

[0066] Track T8: No encroachment allowance.

[0067] If each cell in a cell library is defined according to a common boundary encroachment specification, or includes layout shape-to-cell boundary spacings of at least the same size as the common boundary encroachment specification for each track, then the cells within the cell library can be placed next to each other in a compatible manner so as to comply with global shape-to-shape design rule separation requirements. For example, in one exemplary embodiment, each cell in a cell library is defined based on a left boundary encroachment specification and a complimentary right boundary encroachment specification. The left boundary encroachment specification will identify which tracks allow for layout shape encroachment within the design rule distance buffer at the left boundary of the cell, and which tracks require a spacing allowance region between a nearest layout shape and the left boundary of the cell.

[0068] Similarly, the right boundary encroachment specification will identify which tracks allow for layout shape encroachment within the design rule distance buffer at the right boundary of the cell, and which tracks require a spacing allowance region between a nearest layout shape and the right boundary of the cell. In this embodiment, if the boundary encroachment specification allows for encroachment of a given layout shape within the design rule distance buffer at the cell boundary of a given track, then actual layout shape encroachment at the cell boundary of the given track is allowed but not required. However, in this embodiment, if the boundary encroachment specification identifies a spacing allowance region at the cell boundary of a given track, then the spacing allowance region at the cell boundary of the given track is required.

[0069] FIG. 4A shows an example of two cells (Cell A and Cell B) defined in accordance with the common boundary encroachment specification, as described above with regard to FIG. 3B, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The spacing allowance regions 903 located at the right boundary of Cell A compliment the encroachment regions 901 at the left boundary of Cell B. Similarly, the spacing allowance regions 903 located at the left boundary of Cell B compliment the encroachment regions 901 at the right boundary of Cell A. Therefore, layout shapes B2 and B7 can encroach within the design rule distance buffer at the left boundary of Cell B and still satisfy the global shape-to-shape design rule spacing requirement relative to layout shapes A2 and A7, respectively. Similarly, layout shapes A3 and A6 can encroach within the design rule distance buffer at the right boundary of Cell A and still satisfy the global shape-to-shape design rule separation requirement relative to layout shapes B3 and B6, respectively. Cells can also be flipped as necessary to match encroachment regions 901 to spacing allowance regions 903. For example, FIG. 4B shows flipped versions of Cell A and Cell B placed next to each other, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

[0070] In an extension of the above-described embodiment, the cell library can also include one or more cells which implement a mirrored encroachment specification in which both the left and right boundaries of the cell have the same boundary encroachment specification. Cells that implement the mirrored encroachment specification are referred to herein as "mirror cells." In this embodiment, to ensure full cell placement compatibility, two variations of each mirror cell are defined within the cell library. The first variation of a mirror cell applies the left common boundary encroachment specification to both the left and right boundaries of the mirror cell. The second variation of the mirror cell applies the right common boundary encroachment specification to both the left and right boundaries of the mirror cell.

[0071] FIG. 5A shows a first variation of a mirror cell (Cell C-v1) in which the left common boundary encroachment specification, as shown at the left boundary of Cell A of FIG. 3B, is applied to both the left and right boundaries of the mirror cell (Cell C-v1), in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 5B shows a second variation of the mirror cell (Cell C-v2) in which the right common boundary encroachment specification, as shown at the right boundary in Cell A of FIG. 3B, is applied to both the left and right boundaries of the mirror cell (Cell C-v2), in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

[0072] By having both variations of the mirror cell in the cell library, the mirror cell can be placed next to any other cell that complies with the common boundary encroachment specification. For example, to implement left-to-right placement of Cells C, A, C, the cell placement can be done as C-v1, Cell A-flipped, C-v2. FIG. 6A shows Cell A-flipped placed to the right of Cell C-v1, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 6B shows Cell C-v2 placed to the right of Cell A-flipped, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

[0073] Although the exemplary embodiments of FIGS. 3A through 6B show linear-shaped layout features which may correspond to the dynamic array architecture, it should be understood that the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein are not necessarily limited to use with the dynamic array architecture. For example, FIG. 7A shows an example of a cell (Cell E) that includes a two-dimensionally varying feature E3 and a number of linear-shaped features E1-E2, E4-E5, E6-E7, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The two-dimensionally varying feature E3 extends into encroachment region 901 at the right boundary of Cell E. Also, Cell E includes a spacing allowance region 903 located at the left boundary to complement the encroachment region 901 at the right boundary of Cell E.

[0074] FIG. 7B shows another example cell (Cell F) that includes a two-dimensionally varying feature F4 and a number of linear-shaped features F1-F3 and F5-F7, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The two-dimensionally varying feature F4 and the linear-shaped features F3 and F6 extend into encroachment region 901 at the right boundary of Cell F. Also, Cell F includes a spacing allowance region 903 located at the left boundary to complement the encroachment area 901 at the right boundary of Cell F. Therefore, Cells E and F have compatible boundary encroachment specifications, such that Cells E and F can be placed side-by-side.

[0075] FIG. 7C shows side-by-side placement of Cells E and F of FIGS. 7A and 7B, respectively, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The spacing allowance regions 903 located at the left boundary of Cell F complements the encroachment region 901 at the right boundary of Cell E. Similarly, the spacing allowance regions 903 located at the right boundary of Cell E complement the encroachment regions 901 at the left boundary of Cell F. Therefore, the two-dimensionally varying layout shapes E3 can encroach within the design rule distance buffer at the right boundary of Cell E and still satisfy the global shape-to-shape design rule separation requirement relative to layout shapes F3, F4, and F5. Similarly, layout shapes F2 and F6 can encroach within the design rule distance buffer at the left boundary of Cell F and still satisfy the global shape-to-shape design rule separation requirement relative to layout shapes E2 and E6, respectively.

[0076] FIG. 8 shows an example cell layout for an AND logic circuit that implements the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The AND cell layout of FIG. 8 includes complementary (n-type and p-type) diffusion regions 501, gate electrode level features 503, contact features 505, and metal 1 (M1) level features 507. The gate electrode level layout includes gate electrode level features 503 that overlap each of the left and right cell boundaries. Also, the M1 level includes an M1 level feature that encroaches within the encroachment region 901 at the right boundary of the cell. The M1 level also includes a spacing allowance region 903 at the left boundary of the cell. It should also be appreciated that a mirrored version of the AND cell can be generated by flipping each layout of the cell about a centerline parallel to and equidistant between the left and right cell boundaries. The AND cell of FIG. 8 is one example of a logic cell implementation utilizing the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein. It should be understood that essentially any other cell defined to perform essentially any logic function can be implemented utilizing the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein.

[0077] It should be understood that the cell layouts presented in FIGS. 3A through 8 are provided by way of example only, and in no way limit the scope of the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein. For instance, any cell that utilizes the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein may have more or less tracks than shown in the examples herein. Also, a given common boundary encroachment specification can be defined in essentially any manner. Therefore, the specific tracks which include encroachment regions 901 and spacing allowance regions 903 can differ from what is shown by way of example in the cells of FIGS. 3A through 8. Also, any given cell that utilizes the cell boundary encroachment technique disclosed herein may incorporate layout shapes of varying size and shape beyond what is depicted in the examples herein.

[0078] Also, any given cell may utilize the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein on multiple cell levels. Cell boundary encroachment technique utilization within multiple cell levels of a given cell will be permutative in determining how many variations the given cell exists in the cell library. Additionally, different cells may utilize the cell boundary encroachment techniques on different cell levels. Moreover, some cells may not utilize the cell boundary encroachment techniques on a given level, but will comply with spacing allowance region requirements associated with the given level so as to be compatible for placement next to cells that do utilize the cell boundary encroachment techniques on the given level.

[0079] Utilizing the above-described cell boundary encroachment techniques, a semiconductor device is defined in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The semiconductor device includes a plurality of cells in which each cell has a respective outer cell boundary defined to circumscribe the cell in an orthogonal manner, i.e., with cell boundary segments extending at right angles to each other. For example, each of the example cell layouts of FIGS. 3A through 8 include a respective outer cell boundary defined to circumscribe the cell in an orthogonal manner, e.g., as a rectangle. It should be understood, however, that a rectangular shaped outer cell boundary is not required. In other embodiments, a cell can have essentially any polygonal shaped outer boundary. Each cell within the semiconductor device includes circuitry for performing one or more logic functions. This circuitry includes a plurality of conductive features defined in one or more levels of the cell.

[0080] In the semiconductor device, one or more of the conductive features in at least one level of a given cell is an encroaching feature positioned to encroach by an encroachment distance into an exclusion zone defined within the cell about the outer boundary of the cell. The exclusion zone occupies an area within the cell defined by an exclusion distance extending perpendicularly inward into the cell from the cell outer boundaries. In one embodiment, the exclusion distance is defined by one-half of a design rule distance as measured perpendicularly inward into the given cell from a segment of the outer cell boundary. However, in other embodiments, the exclusion distance is defined by a fraction or multiple of the design rule distance other than one-half, as measured perpendicularly inward into the given cell from a segment of the outer cell boundary. In one embodiment, the encroachment distance of the encroaching feature extends from a position corresponding to the inward extent of the exclusion distance from the segment of the outer cell boundary adjacent to the encroaching region, to an outermost edge of the encroaching feature relative to an interior of the given cell.

[0081] In one embodiment, the level of the given cell having the encroaching feature is also defined to correspondingly include a spacing allowance region adjacent to a segment of the outer cell boundary located opposite the given cell from the segment of the outer cell boundary where the encroaching region exists. The spacing allowance region extends perpendicularly inward into the given cell from its corresponding segment of the outer cell boundary by a spacing allowance distance equal to at least the encroachment distance plus the exclusion distance. This spacing allowance region size ensures that when two cells are placed side-by-side such that the encroachment region is placed next to the spacing allowance region, the conductive features within the encroachment region will be spaced apart from other conductive features by at least a full design rule separation distance. It should be understood that the spacing allowance region within the level of the given cell does not include any conductive features.

[0082] FIG. 11A shows an example of an interrelationship between the encroachment distance, exclusion distance, and spacing allowance region distance, with an encroachment feature 1101 that overlaps its cell boundary, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Cells x and y are placed side-by-side such that their facing outer cell boundaries are aligned. That is to say the right cell boundary of Cell x is aligned with the left cell boundary of Cell y. Both Cell x and Cell y have exclusion zones 1102 and 1104, respectively, defined by an exclusion distance (XD). The encroaching feature 1101 extends into the exclusion zone 1102 of Cell x by an exclusion distance (ED), such that the encroaching feature 1101 overlaps the right cell boundary of Cell x. The corresponding spacing allowance region of Cell y had a distance of SD, which is equal to the sum of the encroaching distance (ED) plus the exclusion distance (XD). The neighboring feature 1103 in Cell y complies with the spacing allowance region, such that twice the exclusion distance (XD) exists between the encroaching feature 1101 from Cell x and the neighboring feature 1103 in Cell y.

[0083] FIG. 11B shows a variation of FIG. 11A, with an encroachment feature 1101A that does not overlap its cell boundary, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The encroaching feature 1101A extends into the exclusion zone 1102 of Cell x by an exclusion distance (ED), such that the encroaching feature 1101A does not overlap the right cell boundary of Cell x. The corresponding spacing allowance region of Cell y had a distance of SD, which is equal to the sum of the encroaching distance (ED) plus the exclusion distance (XD). The neighboring feature 1103A in Cell y complies with the spacing allowance region, such that twice the exclusion distance (XD) exists between the encroaching feature 1101A from Cell x and the neighboring feature 1103A in Cell y.

[0084] In one embodiment, the encroaching feature within the encroachment region is a conductive feature within a gate electrode level of the given cell. In one version of this embodiment, the gate electrode level of the given cell is defined to include only linear-shaped conductive features positioned parallel to each other, such as in the dynamic array architecture. An example of this is shown by encroaching feature A6 in the example cell layout of FIG. 3B. However, in another version of this embodiment, the gate electrode level of the given cell is defined to include arbitrary shaped conductive features. In this case, the encroaching feature may include both a portion that is parallel to and a portion that is perpendicular to the segment of the outer cell boundary from which the encroachment region extends. An example of this is shown by encroaching feature E3 in the example cell layout of FIG. 7A.

[0085] In one embodiment, the encroaching feature is a conductive interconnect feature within an interconnect level of the given cell defined above a gate electrode level of the given cell. In one version of this embodiment, the interconnect level of the given cell is defined to include only linear-shaped conductive features positioned parallel to each other, such as in the dynamic array architecture. However, in another version of this embodiment, the interconnect level of the given cell is defined to include arbitrary shaped conductive features. In this case, the encroaching feature includes both a portion that is parallel to and a portion that is perpendicular to the segment of the outer cell boundary from which the encroachment region extends.

[0086] Also, in one embodiment, an outermost edge of the encroaching feature (relative to an interior of the given cell) is located inside of the outer cell boundary so as to be located inside of the given cell. However, in another embodiment, the outermost edge of the encroaching feature is located outside of the outer cell boundary, such that the encroaching feature overlaps the segment of the outer cell boundary from which the encroachment region extends, i.e., the reference segment of the outer cell boundary. For discussion purposes, this embodiment is referred to as an overlapping encroachment embodiment.

[0087] In one version of the overlapping encroachment embodiment, the encroaching feature is a linear-shaped conductive feature positioned parallel to the reference segment of the outer cell boundary, such that a width direction of the encroaching feature is perpendicular to the reference segment of the outer cell boundary. In one instance, a first extent of the encroaching feature in the width direction inside of the reference segment of the outer cell boundary is equal to a second extent of the encroaching feature in the width direction outside of the reference segment of the outer cell boundary. In another case, a first extent of the encroaching feature in the width direction inside of the reference segment of the outer cell boundary is different from a second extent of the encroaching feature in the width direction outside of the reference segment of the outer cell boundary.

[0088] In another version of the overlapping encroachment embodiment, the encroaching feature is a two-dimensionally shaped feature having one or more portions that extend parallel to the reference segment of the outer cell boundary and one or more portions that extend perpendicular to the reference segment of the outer cell boundary. In one instance, the encroaching portion of the two-dimensionally shaped encroaching feature includes both portions that extend parallel to and perpendicular to the reference segment of the outer cell boundary. In another instance, the encroaching portion of the two-dimensionally shaped encroaching feature may includes a portion that extends in a single direction either parallel to or perpendicular to the reference segment of the outer cell boundary. It should be understood that in various embodiments, the encroaching portion(s) of the encroaching feature may have essentially any shape depending on the particular layout of the cell.

[0089] In one example instance of the overlapping encroachment embodiment, the semiconductor device includes a first cell and a second cell, wherein the labels first and second are provided for identification purposes only and do not infer sequence or position. In this embodiment, the first cell includes an encroaching feature positioned to overlap a reference segment of an outer cell boundary of the first cell. Also, in this embodiment, the second cell includes an encroaching feature positioned to overlap a reference segment of an outer cell boundary of the second cell. The encroaching feature of the second cell is shaped to align with and overlap the encroaching feature of the first cell when the reference segments of the outer boundaries of the first and second cells are aligned. In this embodiment, the encroaching feature of the first cell and the encroaching feature of the second cell have a shared functionality such that a single instance of the overlapping encroaching features within the semiconductor device provides the shared functionality for both the first and second cells, when the first and second cells are placed such that their respective outer boundary reference segments are aligned.

[0090] Also, in one embodiment, the semiconductor chip includes mirrored versions of one or more cells. In this embodiment, a given cell and its mirrored version each have a common centerline defined parallel to and equidistant between two opposing segments of the outer cell boundary, e.g., between left and right segments of the outer cell boundary. In this embodiment, conductive features within the mirrored version of the given cell respectively correspond to conductive features within the given cell having been flipped about the common centerline.

[0091] In one embodiment, at least one instance of a given cell is defined on the semiconductor chip in accordance with any one of multiple versions of the given cell or combination thereof. The multiple versions of the given cell include: [0092] a first version of the given cell having an encroachment region defined within a particular cell level adjacent to a first segment of the outer cell boundary and a spacing allowance region defined within the particular cell level adjacent to a second segment of the outer cell boundary located opposite the given cell from the first segment, [0093] a second version of the given cell having the encroachment region defined within the particular cell level adjacent to both the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary, and [0094] a third version of the given cell having the spacing allowance region defined within the particular cell level adjacent to both the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary.

[0095] Use of the labels first and second with regard to segments of the outer cell boundary are provided for reference purposes only and do not infer sequence or position. In this embodiment, the encroachment region is defined as a peripheral region of the particular cell level of the given cell within which at least one encroaching feature is positioned to encroach by an encroachment distance into an exclusion zone. As previously mentioned, the exclusion zone occupies the area within the cell defined by the exclusion distance extending perpendicularly inward into the cell from the cell outer boundaries.

[0096] The encroachment distance extends from a position corresponding to the inward extent of the exclusion distance from the segment of the outer cell boundary adjacent to the encroaching region, to an outermost edge of the encroaching feature relative to an interior of the given cell. Also, in this embodiment, the spacing allowance region is defined to extend perpendicularly inward into the given cell from the outer cell boundary by a spacing allowance distance equal to at least the encroachment distance plus the exclusion distance. The spacing allowance region within the particular cell level does not include any conductive features.

[0097] Also, in this embodiment, the multiple versions of the given cell include mirrored versions of each of the first, second, and third versions, i.e., non-mirrored versions, of the given cell, as described above. Each non-mirrored version of the given cell and its corresponding mirrored version both have a common centerline defined parallel to and equidistant between the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary. Conductive features within each mirrored version of the given cell respectively correspond to conductive features within the corresponding non-mirrored version of the given cell having been flipped about the common centerline.

[0098] In another embodiment, the cell boundary encroachment techniques described herein can be represented in a cell library stored in a digital format on a computer readable storage medium. The cell library includes one or more layouts of a cell. The cell has an outer cell boundary defined to circumscribe the cell in an orthogonal manner. The cell is also defined to include circuitry for performing one or more logic functions. Each layout for the cell includes layout shapes for conductive features in one or more levels of the cell. A first layout of the cell has an encroachment region defined within a given level of the cell adjacent to a first segment of the outer cell boundary. The encroachment region includes at least one encroaching layout shape positioned to encroach by an encroachment distance into an exclusion zone. The exclusion zone occupies an area within the cell defined by an exclusion distance extending perpendicularly inward into the cell from the cell outer boundaries. The encroachment distance extends from a position corresponding to the inward extent of the exclusion distance from the segment of the outer cell boundary adjacent to the encroaching region, to an outermost edge of the encroaching layout shape relative to an interior of the given cell.

[0099] The first layout of the cell also includes a spacing allowance region defined within the given level of the cell adjacent to a second segment of the outer cell boundary located opposite the cell from the first segment of the outer cell boundary. The spacing allowance region extends perpendicularly inward into the cell from the second segment of the outer cell boundary by a spacing allowance distance equal to at least the encroachment distance of the encroachment region plus the exclusion distance. The spacing allowance region in the cell level does not include any layout shapes.

[0100] In one embodiment, the cell library also includes a mirrored version of the first layout of the cell. The first layout of the cell and its mirrored version both have a common centerline defined parallel to and equidistant between the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary. Conductive features within the mirrored version of the first layout of the cell correspond to conductive features within the first layout of the cell having been flipped about the common centerline.

[0101] In one embodiment, the cell library also includes a second layout of the cell in which the cell level has a first encroachment region defined adjacent to the first segment of the outer cell boundary, and a second encroachment region defined adjacent to the second segment of the outer cell boundary located opposite the cell from the first segment of the outer cell boundary. In this embodiment, each of the first and second encroachment regions includes at least one encroaching layout shape positioned to encroach by a respective encroachment distance into a corresponding exclusion zone.

[0102] In one embodiment, the cell library also includes a mirrored version of the second layout of the cell. The second layout of the cell and its mirrored version both have a common centerline defined parallel to and equidistant between the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary. Conductive features within the mirrored version of the second layout of the cell correspond to conductive features within the second layout of the cell having been flipped about the common centerline.

[0103] In one embodiment, the cell library also includes a third layout of the cell in which the cell level has a first spacing allowance region defined adjacent to the first segment of the outer cell boundary, and a second spacing allowance region defined adjacent to the second segment of the outer cell boundary located opposite the cell from the first segment of the outer cell boundary. In this embodiment, the first spacing allowance region extends perpendicularly inward into the cell from the first segment of the outer cell boundary by a first spacing allowance distance equal to at least the encroachment distance of the second encroachment region of the second cell layout plus the exclusion distance. Also, the second spacing allowance region extends perpendicularly inward into the cell from the second segment of the outer cell boundary by a second spacing allowance distance equal to at least the encroachment distance of the first encroachment region of the first and second layouts plus the exclusion distance. Each of the first and second spacing allowance regions in the cell level does not include any layout shapes.

[0104] In one embodiment, the cell library also includes a mirrored version of the third layout of the cell. The third layout of the cell and its mirrored version both have a common centerline defined parallel to and equidistant between the first and second segments of the outer cell boundary. Conductive features within the mirrored version of the third layout of the cell correspond to conductive features within the third layout of the cell having been flipped about the common centerline.

[0105] The foregoing description of the cell boundary encroachment techniques have been provided primarily within the context of a given cell or a given pair of interfacing cells, i.e., adjacently placed cells. In addition to the principles of the cell boundary encroachment techniques, as described above, it should be understood that additional considerations may be made when implementing the cell boundary encroachment techniques across a cell library.

[0106] Specifically, within the cell library, there should be at least one version of each cell that has a boundary specification defined to accommodate the most aggressive boundary encroachments among the cells in the cell library. The most aggressive boundary encroachments are those that have the largest encroachment distance. For discussion purposes, consider an example cell library that includes multiple cells, including a Cell J and a Cell K, among others.

[0107] FIG. 9A shows a particular level L-x of the Cell J that has a right boundary encroachment specification defined by encroachment regions 951 and 953, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The encroachment region 951 has an encroachment distance indicated by arrow 952. The encroachment region 953 has an encroachment distance indicated by arrow 954. And, the encroachment region 955 has an encroachment distance indicated by arrow 956. Cell J also has a left boundary encroachment specification defined by encroachment region 955. The encroachment region 955 has an encroachment distance indicated by arrow 956. FIG. 9B shows the same particular level L-x of the Cell K that has a right boundary encroachment specification defined by an encroachment region 959, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The encroachment region 959 has an encroachment distance indicated by arrow 960.

[0108] For discussion purposes, consider that within level L-x within all the cells in the cell library, the encroachment distance 952 of encroachment region 951 of Cell J is the maximum encroachment distance at the cell boundary location B-1. Also, consider that the encroachment distance 956 of encroachment region 955 of Cell J is the maximum encroachment distance at the cell boundary location B-2. Also, consider that the encroachment distance 960 of encroachment region 959 of Cell K is the maximum encroachment distance at the cell boundary location B-3.

[0109] To ensure that the cells within the library can be placed next to each other without violating the design rule spacing requirement between adjacent conductive features, there should be a version of each cell within the cell library that has a level L-x layout with spacing allowance regions defined to accommodate the most aggressive boundary encroachments among the cells in the cell library. In the present example, the most aggressive boundary encroachments among the cells in the cell library within level L-x are those corresponding to encroachment regions 951 and 955 of Cell J, and the encroachment region 959 of Cell K. Therefore, in the present example, there should be a version of each cell within the cell library that has a level L-x layout with spacing allowance regions defined to accommodate the encroachment regions 951 and 955 of Cell J, and the encroachment region 959 of Cell K.

[0110] FIG. 9C shows a first version of a Cell M that includes spacing allowance regions 961, 963, and 965, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The spacing allowance regions 961, 963, and 965 are defined to accommodate boundary encroachment regions 955, 951, and 953, respectively. The spacing allowance region 961 extends inward into the Cell M by a distance 962 equal to at least a sum of the encroachment distance 956 (of encroachment region 955 of Cell J) plus the exclusion distance of the exclusion zone. In this manner, the spacing allowance region 961 at boundary location B-2 accommodates the most aggressive encroachment region within the cell library at boundary location B-2.

[0111] The spacing allowance region 963 extends inward into the Cell M by a distance 964 equal to at least a sum of the encroachment distance 952 (of encroachment region 951 of Cell J) plus the exclusion distance of the exclusion zone. The spacing allowance region 965 extends inward into the Cell M by a distance 966 equal to at least a sum of the encroachment distance 960 (of encroachment region 959 of Cell K) plus the exclusion distance of the exclusion zone. In this manner, the spacing allowance regions 963 and 965 at boundary locations B-1 and B-3, respectively, accommodate the most aggressive encroachment regions within the cell library at boundary locations B-1 and B-3, respectively.

[0112] In one embodiment, cells are placed next to each other in a sequential manner. In this case, it may be acceptable for a cell to have a version that accommodates the most aggressive boundary encroachment specification on one side of the cell at a time. For instance, a second version of Cell M may be defined to have the spacing allowance region 961 on the right cell boundary, and not have the spacing allowance regions 963 and 965 on the left cell boundary. However, in this case, the second version of Cell M could not be the only version of Cell M in the cell library. In this case, their should be at least one other version of Cell M that includes the spacing allowance regions 963 and 965 on the left cell boundary. This at least one other version of Cell M could be satisfied by the first version of Cell M as shown in FIG. 9C. Or, the cell library could further include a third version of Cell M that includes the spacing allowance regions 963 and 965 on the left cell boundary, without the spacing allowance region 961 on the right cell boundary.

[0113] It should be understood that mirrored version of the cells within the cell library can be placed on the semiconductor chip. Therefore, a version of a cell having spacing allowance region(s) located on a right side of a cell can be mirrored, i.e., flipped, to have the same spacing allowance region(s) located on a left side of the cell, vice-versa. Also, it should be understood that multiple levels of a cell can have encroachment boundary specifications. The example described above with regard to FIGS. 9A-9C correspond to one level L-x of the cells within the cell library. When multiple cell levels include boundary encroachment specifications, the spacing allowance regions necessary to accommodate the most aggressive encroachment regions within each level of the cell are permutated on a cell level-by-cell level basis to generate multiple versions of each cell. This ensures that each cell within the cell library has a version that can accommodate any combination of encroachment regions across multiple cell levels.

[0114] In various embodiments, the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein can be used to facilitate implementation of either standard or non-standard cell designs. In one embodiment, cells can be defined to include a level in which layout features are defined to have a width size of odd number, such as 35 nm (nanometers) by way of example. With the odd numbered feature width size, it may not be possible to have a centered alignment of layout features on the cell boundaries. In other words, the encroachment distance of a layout feature on one side of the cell boundary may be different than the encroachment distance of another layout feature on the other side of the cell boundary.

[0115] For example, FIG. 10A shows a layout of a level of an example Cell P-v1, in which the layout features have a width size W of odd number, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, each of layout features 701, 703, 705, 707, and 709 is defined to have the odd numbered width W. In this case, a fixed cell layout grid increment spacing may be sized such that the left and right cell boundaries cannot be centered on the encroaching layout shapes 701 and 709, respectively. Therefore, the layout feature 701 extends outside of the cell boundary by a distance 711, and extends inside of the cell boundary by a distance 713, where the distance 713 is less than the distance 711. Also, the layout feature 709 extends outside of the cell boundary by the distance 713, and extends inside of the cell boundary by the distance 711. By way of example, in the embodiment where the odd numbered feature width size is 35 nm, the larger distance 711 may correspond to 20 nm, and the smaller distance 713 may correspond to 15 nm. It should be understood, however, that these size values are not limited and that essentially any other size values may be utilized.

[0116] It can be seen that a simple flipping, i.e., mirroring, of Cell P-v1 does not enable placement of Cell P in a side-by-side manner. Therefore, another version of Cell P is generated to enable side-by-side placement. FIG. 10B shows a layout of a second version of Cell P (Cell P-v2), in which the cell is both flipped and shifted, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, to arrive at the layout of Cell P-v2, the layout features within Cell P-v1 are flipped and then shifted to the left, such that the layout features 709 and 701 of Cell P-v2 will align with the layout features 709 and 701, respectively, of Cell P-v1 when Cells P-v1 and P-v2 are placed side-by-side with overlapping cell boundaries.

[0117] In one embodiment, the cell boundary encroachment techniques utilized to implement cells with feature width sizes of odd number, such as described in FIGS. 10A-10B, can be implemented across an entire cell library. In this embodiment, each cell in the library will have at least one flipped and shifted version to accommodate its side-by-side placement next to any other cell in the library. Also, it should be understood that the embodiments described with regard to FIGS. 10A-10B can be applied to essentially any cell level layout, such as a gate electrode level and/or an interconnect level defined above the gate electrode level.

[0118] In summary, it should be understood that the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein provide a systematic approach for allowing certain layout shapes to encroach within the design rule spacing buffer at a cell boundary, while ensuring that global shape-to-shape design rule separation requirements are satisfied when cells are placed next to each other. For any given cell level, the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein can be applied to left/right cell boundaries, top/bottom cell boundaries, or both left/right and top/bottom cell boundaries.

[0119] It should be understood that the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein can be implemented in a layout that is stored in a tangible form, such as in a digital format on a computer readable medium. For example, the layouts incorporating the cell boundary encroachment techniques disclosed herein can be stored in a layout data file of one or more cells, selectable from one or more libraries of cells. The layout data file can be formatted as a GDS II (Graphic Data System) database file, an OASIS (Open Artwork System Interchange Standard) database file, or any other type of data file format suitable for storing and communicating semiconductor device layouts. Also, multi-level layouts utilizing the cell boundary encroachment techniques can be included within a multi-level layout of a larger semiconductor device. The multi-level layout of the larger semiconductor device can also be stored in the form of a layout data file, such as those identified above.

[0120] Also, the invention described herein can be embodied as computer readable code on a computer readable medium. For example, the computer readable code can include the layout data file within which one or more layouts implementing the cell boundary encroachment techniques are stored. The computer readable code can also include program instructions for selecting one or more layout libraries and/or cells that include a layout utilizing the cell boundary encroachment techniques as defined therein. The layout libraries and/or cells can also be stored in a digital format on a computer readable medium.

[0121] The computer readable medium mentioned herein is any data storage device that can store data which can thereafter be read by a computer system. Examples of the computer readable medium include hard drives, network attached storage (NAS), read-only memory, random-access memory, CD-ROMs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, magnetic tapes, and other optical and non-optical data storage devices. The computer readable medium can also be distributed over a network of coupled computer systems so that the computer readable code is stored and executed in a distributed fashion.

[0122] Any of the operations described herein that form part of the invention are useful machine operations. The invention also relates to a device or an apparatus for performing these operations. The apparatus may be specially constructed for the required purpose, such as a special purpose computer. When defined as a special purpose computer, the computer can also perform other processing, program execution or routines that are not part of the special purpose, while still being capable of operating for the special purpose. Alternatively, the operations may be processed by a general purpose computer selectively activated or configured by one or more computer programs stored in the computer memory, cache, or obtained over a network. When data is obtained over a network the data maybe processed by other computers on the network, e.g., a cloud of computing resources.

[0123] The embodiments of the present invention can also be defined as a machine that transforms data from one state to another state. The data may represent an article, that can be represented as an electronic signal and electronically manipulate data. The transformed data can, in some cases, be visually depicted on a display, representing the physical object that results from the transformation of data. The transformed data can be saved to storage generally, or in particular formats that enable the construction or depiction of a physical and tangible object. In some embodiments, the manipulation can be performed by a processor. In such an example, the processor thus transforms the data from one thing to another. Still further, the methods can be processed by one or more machines or processors that can be connected over a network. Each machine can transform data from one state or thing to another, and can also process data, save data to storage, transmit data over a network, display the result, or communicate the result to another machine.

[0124] It should be further understood that the cell boundary encroachment embodiments as disclosed herein can be manufactured as part of a semiconductor device or chip. In the fabrication of semiconductor devices such as integrated circuits, memory cells, and the like, a series of manufacturing operations are performed to define features on a semiconductor wafer. The wafer includes integrated circuit devices in the form of multi-level structures defined on a silicon substrate. At a substrate level, transistor devices with diffusion regions are formed. In subsequent levels, interconnect metallization lines are patterned and electrically connected to the transistor devices to define a desired integrated circuit device. Also, patterned conductive layers are insulated from other conductive layers by dielectric materials.

[0125] While this invention has been described in terms of several embodiments, it will be appreciated that those skilled in the art upon reading the preceding specifications and studying the drawings will realize various alterations, additions, permutations and equivalents thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the present invention includes all such alterations, additions, permutations, and equivalents as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention.

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