process technology

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process technology

The particular manufacturing method used to make silicon chips, which is measured by how small the transistor is. The driving force behind the design of integrated circuits is miniaturization, and process technology boils down to the never-ending goal of smaller. It means more computing power per square inch, and smallness enables the design of ultra-tiny chips that can be placed almost anywhere.

Feature Size Measured in Nanometers
The size of the features (the elements that make up the structures on a chip) are measured in nanometers. A 22 nm process technology refers to features 22 nm or 0.22 µm in size. Also called a "technology node" and "process node," early chips were measured in micrometers (see table below).

The Exact Measurements
Historically, the size referred to the length of the silicon channel between source and drain in field effect transistors (see FET). The sizes of other features are generally derived as a ratio of the channel length, where some may be larger and some smaller. For example, in a 90 nm process, the length of the channel may be 90 nm, but the width of the gate terminal may be only 50 nm.

From 1,000 Nanometers Down to 10
The feature size of the 486 chip in 1989 was 1,000 nanometers (one micron). By 2003, it was 90 nm. The size was reduced by slightly less than one millionth of a meter. What may seem like a minuscule reduction took thousands of man years and billions of dollars worth of R&D. In the table below, note the dramatic reductions early on.

Chips Are a Miracle of Miniaturization
To understand how tiny these feature sizes are, it would take six thousand of these elements laid side-by-side to equal the thickness of one human hair. See half-node.


Half a Micron Is Huge
In a span of five years, the feature size on these AMD chips was reduced from .8 to .35 microns. Half a micron may seem insignificant, but not in the microminiature world of semiconductor manufacturing. As features get smaller, the chip runs cooler and faster. (Image courtesy of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.)





Semiconductor Feature Sizes(approximate for all vendors)       Nanometers  MicrometersYear     (nm)        (µm)

 1957   120,000      120.0
 1963    30,000       30.0
 1971    10,000       10.0
 1974     6,000        6.0
 1976     3,000        3.0
 1982     1,500        1.5
 1985     1,300        1.3
 1989     1,000        1.0
 1993       600        0.6
 1996       350        0.35
 1998       250        0.25
 1999       180        0.18
 2001       130        0.13
 2003        90        0.09
 2005        65        0.065
 2008        45        0.045
 2010        32        0.032
 2012        22        0.022
 2014        14        0.014
 2017        10        0.010
  ??          7        0.007
  ??          5        0.005

 Future
 Non-Silicon
 Method       1        0.001
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Today, Intel's Pentium 4 microprocessor contains 55 million transistors, each averaging about 130 nanometers on a side.
Intel's newest chip, the Pentium 4, holds roughly 42 million transistors, with each transistor spanning roughly 130 nanometers (nm).
has production capabilities down to the 130 nanometers (nm) node, making it ideal for Nantero's development work.
The Encounter-based flow has, to date, produced 150 high-end production ASICs at or below 130 nanometers with all first silicon success, out of which about 30 designs were developed at 90 nanometers.
Retiming in Encounter RTL Compiler enabled us to implement our design at 130 nanometers while meeting our timing and area goals.
Below 130 nanometers, precision clock design is critical to control hold time and skew variation over process, and across the entire design simultaneously," said Kun-Cheng Wu, Director of Design Development at Faraday Technology.
We have successfully completed more than 10 tapeouts at 130 nanometers using the Encounter platform, and are currently using it for 90-nanometer tapeouts," said Jim Lai, chief operating officer and president at Global UniChip.
Design planning, placement and analysis are not just a good thing for logic designers to have as feature sizes shrink below 130 nanometers, they are crucial to design closure," said Michael Naum, president and CTO of Silicon Dimensions.