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
References in periodicals archive ?
For instance, they have introduced chips that are available in smaller sizes; the sizes of these chips have reduced from 45 nanometers to 22 nanometers.
In today's chips, the length of these gates is about 45 nanometers, or billionths of a meter.
While Fujitsu Microelectronics will develop a system LSI with a line width of 45 nanometers on its own, the independent development of a 32-nm circuitry LSI will be difficult in light of huge development costs, Haruki Okada said at a press conference.
The group mixed multiple copies of the modified virus with gold particles roughly 45 nanometers in diameter.
The fingernail-sized memory chip is etched with 1 billion transistors that are only 45 nanometers wide - about 1,000 times smaller than a red blood cell, said Mark Bohr, a leading Intel engineer.
The company is said to offer a line of more than 44 non-contact sensors with fast response rates up to 500 kHz, greater accuracy with resolutions down to 45 nanometers and cost-competitive prices that meet most industrial needs.
This is an extensive and diverse engagement, covering technology nodes from 45 nanometers down to 14 nanometers, spanning multiple process and device integration applications.
IBM plans to produce millions of chips for Nintendo featuring IBM Silicon on Insulator (SOI) technology at 45 nanometers (45 billionths of a meter).
said Wednesday they will jointly develop technology to make system large-scale integrated circuits with the precision of 45 nanometers.
11 Journal of the American Chemical Society, Sotzing and his team describe how they used their AFM technique to create conducting lines only 45 nanometers wide.
More than 300 companies worldwide, including 7 of the top 10 semiconductor companies, have adopted the Laker layout system for designs down to 45 nanometers.
Recent advancements in HSPICE performance and device modeling have enabled Intrinsity to attain silicon-accurate power and current measurements at 45 nanometers while greatly reducing verification time for their leading-edge designs.