IBM to Unveil Advance in Chips

Filed under: — By Aviran Mordo @ 8:43 am

IBM Corp. is expected to announce today that its scientists have developed a technique for printing circuitry on silicon that could make computer chips significantly more powerful while extending the life of current manufacturing technology, potentially saving billions of dollars in plant reconstruction.

Most semiconductor manufacturing today uses a process called optical lithography, in which lasers imprint patterns on silicon wafers, much like silk screening, with features as small as 90 nanometers in width. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

As components shrink, more can be crammed onto each chip, enabling smaller devices that are increasingly powerful.

Many experts believe that using optical lithography and beaming lasers through water can concentrate the light to produce chips with features down to 32 nanometers, but no smaller.

IBM’s technique, a variation of so-called immersion lithography, is expected to be announced today at a technical conference in San Jose.

It uses an oil-like organic fluid with a higher refractive index than water, resulting in highly focused laser beams that produce lines 29.9 nanometers apart — about 3,000 times as thin as a human hair.

“This technique could be quite an attractive option to make chips at 25 nanometers,” Gian-Luca Bona, functional manager of science and technology at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, said in an interview. It could lead to processor and memory chips that are smaller, faster, cheaper and use less power, IBM says.

By extending the use of optical lithography further into the future, chipmakers can delay switching manufacturing processes, which causes downtime and lost productivity, while buying time for other technologies to mature.

IBM’s process could allow optical lithography to be used through 2013.

Source: LA Times


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