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posted by janrinok on Friday July 10 2015, @01:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the Moore's-Law-fail dept.

Numerous sources are reporting that IBM's recent $3 billion investment in new chipmaking technologies and collaboration with the State University of New York in Albany, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung Electronics Co. is beginning to bear fruit. IBM has developed chips with functional transistors using a 7 nanometer process technology.

In particular, silicon-germanium (SiGe) has been incorporated into FinFET transistors, the fins of which are stacked at a pitch of less than 30nm, compared to a 42nm pitch for Intel's 14nm Broadwell chips. Long delayed extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography from ASML was used to etch the features. Although ASML's EUV tools are still slower and more expensive than conventional lithography, Michael Liehr, the executive vice president for innovation and technology at the SUNY Poly research center, predicted that ASML would improve EUV over the next four to six years, before 7nm chips are set to reach the market. More aggressive estimates put the introduction of 7nm chips around 2017-2018.

Ars Technica has a story on this topic with more technical background.

Original Submission

Related Stories

IBM Reports Carbon Nanotube Transistor Breakthrough

IBM has made progress towards the creation of usable carbon nanotube transistors:

IBM Research reported in a paper in Science today a technique for making carbon nanotube transistors with tiny (~9nm) contacts that exhibit low, size-independent resistance. This overcomes a huge hurdle in shrinking transistor size beyond current limits. "I think this is the first carbon nanotube transistor demonstration with such a small, low resistance contact," said Shu-Jen Han, manager of the Nanoscale Science & Technology Group at IBM Research and an author on the paper (End-bonded contacts for carbon nanotube transistors with low, size-independent resistance).

[...] Earlier this summer, IBM unveiled the first 7 nanometer node silicon test chip, pushing the limits of silicon technologies and ensuring further innovations for IBM Systems and the IT industry. By advancing research of carbon nanotubes to replace traditional silicon, IBM is hoping to pave the way for a post-silicon future and delivering on its $3 billion chip R&D investment announced in July 2014.

[...] "This is an important advance but there are many other challenges to be solved such as how to purify the nanotubes, how to place them properly, and we also made good progress there but when we are talking about new technology so many things have to be right. People tend to divide the technology into two parts, materials and the device. Solving the contact size is probably top challenge on the device side. There are still a bunch of issues on the materials side," said Han.

Indeed the paper points out, "We have only demonstrated p-channel SWNT transistors using p-type end contacts. It will be difficult to form end-bonded n-type contacts to SWNTs in which electrons are directly injected into the conduction band of SWNTs with this carbide formation approach as metals with low enough work function tend to oxidize first rather than react with C. However, it is still possible to realize n-channel SWNT device operation even with end-bonded contacts to high work function metals through electrostatic doping in the vicinity of the source electrode."

Also reported at The Register, MIT Technology Review, Wired, and The New York Times.

Previously: IBM and Partners Develop 7nm Process Chips

Original Submission

ARM and TSMC to Collaborate on 7nm Chips 14 comments

ARM Holdings and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) have announced a collaboration on 7nm chips. They have already worked together to create CPUs at the 16nm and 10nm process nodes. There is no indication that extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) will be used for 7nm chips, whereas IBM used the technology for its 7nm demonstration chip last year:

IBM was the first to announce the creation of a 7nm chip, although the innovative processes it used to create it also meant that mass production wouldn't be possible for a few more years, due to the high cost. Chances are that IBM's 7nm chips could arrive sometime in 2018, or in 2019 at the latest.

Intel has already delayed its 10nm chip production to the second half of 2017, which means its 7nm chips won't arrive until late 2019, or even early 2020. That gives IBM and other companies the opportunity to surpass Intel in cutting-edge process technology for the first time.

It's not clear when TSMC will be mass-producing 7nm chips. However, knowing that its 10nm chips are likely to appear early next year, then chances are that its 7nm chips will be ready sometime in 2019, potentially surpassing Intel with quicker production of 7nm chips, too.

Also at The Register .

Original Submission

IBM Demonstrates 5nm Chip With Horizontal Gate-All-Around Transistors 10 comments

IBM, which demonstrated the world's first 7nm process silicon chip in 2015, has followed up at the 5nm node. Extreme ultraviolet lithography was required:

IBM, working with Samsung and GlobalFoundries, has unveiled the world's first 5nm silicon chip. Beyond the usual power, performance, and density improvement from moving to smaller transistors, the 5nm IBM chip is notable for being one of the first to use horizontal gate-all-around (GAA) transistors, and the first real use of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography.

GAAFETs are the next evolution of tri-gate finFETs: finFETs, which are currently used for most 22nm-and-below chip designs, will probably run out of steam at around 7nm; GAAFETs may go all the way down to 3nm, especially when combined with EUV. No one really knows what comes after 3nm.

[...] One major advantage of IBM's 5nm GAAFETs is a significant reduction in patterning complexity. Ever since we crossed the 28nm node, chips have become increasingly expensive to manufacture, due to the added complexity of fabricating ever-smaller features at ever-increasing densities. Patterning is the multi-stage process where the layout of the chip—defining where the nanosheets and other components will eventually be built—is etched using a lithographic process. As features get smaller and more complex, more patterning stages are required, which drives up the cost and time of producing each wafer.

[...] IBM says that, compared to commercial 10nm chips (presumably Samsung's 10nm process), the new 5nm tech offers a 40 percent performance boost at the same power, or a 75 percent drop in power consumption at the same performance. Density is also through the roof, with IBM claiming it can squeeze up to 30 billion transistors onto a 50-square-millimetre chip (roughly the size of a fingernail), up from 20 billion transistors on a similarly-sized 7nm chip.

Press release. Also at The Verge, TechCrunch, EE Times, PCMag, and CNET.

Samsung Plans a "4nm" Process

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 1) by anubi on Friday July 10 2015, @01:38AM

    by anubi (2828) on Friday July 10 2015, @01:38AM (#207228) Journal

    I wonder what voltage they run on?

    Its gotta be getting into the millivolt region.

    ( dreaming ) This thing certainly spells out improved battery life for things like cellphones... ( /dreaming)

    ( reality ) They will just force more ads and trackers in the comm streams ( /reality ).

    "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by K_benzoate on Friday July 10 2015, @02:43AM

      by K_benzoate (5036) on Friday July 10 2015, @02:43AM (#207244)

      It's rather more like what happened with automobiles. Engines get more efficient, but those gains aren't all funneled into better fuel economy. If you instead are willing to keep fuel economy the same, you can have a more powerful engine, or a bigger car, or more safety features. CPUs get more powerful and more efficient but we also demand more capable software--and software development practices become more relaxed as programmer time is now more expensive than CPU time. When the opposite was true, you got exquisitely optimized code that was labored on intensely because computing resources were scarce. Our phones are super computers with gigabytes of memory now, and there's no shortage of them.

      We probably will see better battery life, but the market seems willing to accept 1 day of usage on a charge. Device makers will consider that their constraint, which means packing more powerful hardware into handsets, negating the majority of the power-efficiency. And a lot of the power-consumption is for things like the radios and the screen, which are more difficult to economize.

      Climate change is real and primarily caused by human activity.
      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday July 10 2015, @02:53AM

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday July 10 2015, @02:53AM (#207245) Journal

        Idk man. You get multithreading performance from these process shrinks, especially in Xeon territory where core counts simply rise. Single threaded, a struggle to get more than 5-10%.

        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by anubi on Friday July 10 2015, @04:52AM

          by anubi (2828) on Friday July 10 2015, @04:52AM (#207269) Journal

          Cores rock!

          I have been messing around with Parallax "Propeller" chips ( Chip Gracey's eight core microcontroller ) and find it incredible how many three-ring computational circuses I can manage with a single Arduino.

          Things like VGA controller, stepper motor control, and DMX ( theatrical lighting bus ) - simultaneously - with ONE chip.. all run from a single 18650 lithium cell and 3.3V regulator.

          ( I am anxious to learn how to use the CAN bus... so I can talk to automotive/farming stuff. Looks like this chip will be able to handle darned near any protocol I want to emulate!)

          "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Friday July 10 2015, @05:33PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Friday July 10 2015, @05:33PM (#207540)

      > I wonder what voltage they run on?

      16nm can run at 0.73V
      I'm not sure how you can safety run below a diode drop in a real system.

      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Saturday July 11 2015, @12:05AM

        by anubi (2828) on Saturday July 11 2015, @12:05AM (#207705) Journal

        Interesting... I knew at those geometries, the current flow in the gate structures had to be in the picoampere range or you would flat vaporize the interconnects. Of course the capacitance would be in the femtofarad range as well. 730 millivolts. Kinda expected something in that range.

        Its amazing what those guys are doing these days...

        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10 2015, @03:06AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10 2015, @03:06AM (#207253)

    I wonder how this fits into the "strategy" of IBM's C-levels to sell off everything IBM makes to boost short-term profit. As in, I wonder if IBM just becomes a patent troll on this technology.

  • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Friday July 10 2015, @04:12AM

    by captain normal (2205) on Friday July 10 2015, @04:12AM (#207260)

    Is Ars a single entity, or a multiple group?
    "Ars Technica have...."??

    When life isn't going right, go left.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10 2015, @04:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10 2015, @04:15AM (#207261)

      Here "Ars Technica" is a proper noun, therefore a singular case.

      • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Friday July 10 2015, @09:21AM

        "The Spice Girls" is a proper noun too, is it singular? I can only imagine "The Spice Girls have reformed" as a headline (in my nightmares).

        Your rule isn't a rule. A better answer is "it depends what side of the atlantic you're on, and the type of the entity you're talking about, and the precise form of the name, and on various other intangibles", with the rider "even once you've specified all those, a lot of the time it can still be either".

        The correct answer is of course "linguistics isn't prescriptive or proscriptive, it's descriptive - if people repeatedly use it to successfully communicate, it's by definition correct communication". KTHXBYE
        Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves