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).

Historically, the feature size referred to the length of the silicon channel between source and drain in field effect transistors (see FET). Today, the feature size is typically the smallest element in the transistor or the size of the gate.

From 1,000 Down to 90
The feature size of the 486 chip in 1989 was 1,000 nm (one micron). By 2003, it was 90 nm, reduced by a little 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 in the early years of semiconductors.

Chips Are a Miracle of Miniaturization
To understand how tiny these features are, using 22 nm as an example, four thousand of them laid side-by-side are equal to the cross section of a human hair. See half-node and active area.


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 faster and uses less energy to perform the same processing. (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 ?
In 2007, Fujitsu will crank up the clock on the Sparc64 VI to more than 3GHz using a process that is smaller than 90 nanometers (65 nanometers seems likely).
With Philips' commitment to Synopsys' front-end design platform, we will jointly deliver state-of-the-art flows for 90 nanometers and below.
All of these crystals fall within a remarkably small range of sizes -- 50 to 90 nanometers -- and each bacterial species grows its crystals in a specific shape, report Heywood and her colleagues in Bath and at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
At 90 nanometers and below, the testing challenges have increased for semiconductor manufacturers who need to ramp up their production lines as quickly as possible.
Cu-08 will support circuits as small as 90 nanometers -- less than 1/1,000th the width of a human hair.
As designs move beyond 90 nanometers, noise on the clock network is having serious impact on skew and jittering, resulting in timing budget issues and manufacturability challenges.
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.
Its crosstalk prevention features, coupled with NanoRoute SI aware routing, provide a fast path to GDSII and final design closure at 90 nanometers.
The correct choice of library cells can have a significant effect on production yields at 90 nanometers and below," said Brani Buric, senior director of platform product marketing and business development for Virage Logic.
Building on its leadership position at 90 nanometers, S3 has clearly demonstrated its capability to migrate complex designs to the 65-nanometer technology node," said Wei-Jin Dai, corporate vice president, R&D for Cadence.
Scaling MirrorBit technology to 90 nanometers in 2005 is an important milestone," said Bertrand Cambou, president and CEO of Spansion.
At 90 nanometers and below, designers cannot ignore temperature gradients, as they will cause design failures.