Intel Corp., who already have the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing process, have just unveiled more technological breakthroughs that they plan to integrate into volume manufacturing next year.
Using the new 90nm process they will bring together several technologies never before seen in a single chip. These include higher performance, lower power transistors, strained silicon, high speed copper interconnects and a new low-k dielectric material.
The new process also features 50nm transistors, the smallest ever, highest performing CMOS transistors in production. The smallest currently available are 60nm, and are also manufactured by Intel and used in their Pentium processors. The tiny transistors feature gate oxides only 5 atomic layers or 1.2nm thick. The low thickness of the gate oxide increases the transistors speed. These small, fast transistors are the building blocks for high performance processors.
Using strained silicon, current flows more smoothly, also helping to increase transistor speed and this will be the first time the material will be used in a commercial application.
A new Carbon doped oxide provides a new low-k dielectric material for the copper interconnects that serves to increase signal speed within the chip as well as reducing power consumption. Using a simple two layer stack design, the dielectric is extremely easy to manufacture.
The new 90nm process is the next step on from the 130nm process, which many chip manufacturers are only just embracing. Intel’s new process is also significant as they have moved from 200mm wafers (the norm for the 130nm process) to 300mm wafers for the 90nm process.
It has also been responsible for producing the world’s highest capacity SRAM chips at 52 megabits. These chips contain 330 million transistors into an area of only 109mm2, similar the size of a human fingernail.
All these process developments will result in the fastest chips available, while at the same time reducing manufacturing costs in a very competitive market.