process technology

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process technology

With regard to digital integrated circuits, process technology refers to the particular method used to make silicon chips. The driving force behind the manufacture of integrated circuits is miniaturization, and process technology boils down to the size of the finished transistor and other components. The smaller the transistors, the more transistors in the same area, the faster they switch, the less energy they require and the cooler the chip runs (given equal numbers of transistors).

Measured in Nanometers
The size of the features (the elements that make up the structures on a chip) used to be measured in micrometers. A 3 µm process technology, also called a "technology node" and "process node," referred to a silicon chip with features three micrometers in size. Today, features are measured in nanometers. A 45 nm process technology refers to features 45 nm or 0.45 µm in size.

Elements Measured
Historically, the process technology referred to the length of the silicon channel between the source and drain terminals 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 than the channel size 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.

An Example of Progress
Consider that the process technology of the first 486 chip in 1989 was one micron (1,000 nanometers). By 2003, the state-of-the-art decreased to 90 nm ("90 nano"). In 15 years, feature sizes were reduced by slightly less than one millionth of a meter. What may seem like a minuscule, microscopic change to the casual observer took thousands of man years and billions of dollars worth of research and development. Note the huge variance in semiconductor feature sizes starting in the 1950s (see chart below).

Chips Are Nanotechnology
Intel introduced 45 nm processors in 2008. To understand how tiny 45 nanometers is, it would take two thousand 45 nm objects laid side-by-side to equal the thickness of one human hair.

In 2010, 32 nm chips were introduced, and feature sizes as low as 11 nm are expected in the future. For some time, chips have been in the realm of nanotechnology, which refers to elements 100 nanometers and smaller. 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        16        0.016
 2014        14        0.014
 2016**      11        0.011
 2018**       6        0.006
 2020**       4        0.004

 ** estimated
References in periodicals archive ?
They tapered the tip of the fiber and attached a thin gold film with a hole between 130 and 180 nanometers wide shaped like a bow tie.
Within the framework of the print industry standard cyan, magenta and yellow color model, the team found that at groove depths of 170 nanometers and spacing of 180 nanometers, a slit 40 nanometers wide can trap red light and reflect a cyan color.
In doing so, Photronics has been able to properly position itself to effectively service those customers' 130 nanometer and 90 nanometer requirements, as well providing cost effective solutions for their mature technology needs above 180 nanometers.
In today's transistors, the gate oxide insulating layer is 25 atoms thick, and the channel is generally 250 or 180 nanometers wide.
Sarnoff has developed ESD protection solutions for five consecutive generations, ranging from 180 nanometers (nm) to 45nm, of Toshiba CMOS process technologies.
he research found that the tiniest air pollutant particles - those measuring less than 180 nanometers or about one-thousandth the width of a human hair - incited inflammation deep in the lungs.
It addresses the toughest problems -- global and local statistical variations -- that occur in semiconductor devices designed for manufacturing processes at or below 180 nanometers.
Solido's technology addresses the global and local statistical variations that occur in semiconductor devices designed for manufacturing processes at or below 180 nanometers.
Columbus-AMS is part of Sequence's ExtractionStage suite, delivering unrivaled speed, accuracy, and capacity for designs below 180 nanometers (nm).
PhysicalStudio integrates into popular Cadence, Synopsys and Magma third-party routing tools to enable existing physical flows to reach fast, predictable design closure in silicon geometries below 180 nanometers (nm).
Columbus-AMS is part of Sequence's RLC ExtractionStage suite, delivering unrivaled speed, accuracy, and capacity for designs below 180 nanometers (nm).
The size of transistors used in technology today is approximately 130 to 180 nanometers.