IBM Manufactures World’s First 7nm Chip
John Williamson / 1 year ago
IBM, in collaboration with leading companies including GlobalFoundries, Samsung and SUNY have finally cracked the sub 10nm process and produced a fully working 7nm chip. This technological marvel is based on commercial FinFet transistors, but utilizes a silicon-germanium (SIGe) alloy, self-aligned quadruple patterning (SAQR) and EUV lithography to produce chips on a minuscule design process. It’s important to reiterate though, that this is still in the early stages of production and it’s unlikely to become an integral component of mainstream appliances for at least 2-3 years.
The engineering teams have also managed to perform extremely dense stacking with a 30nm transistor pitch. According to IBM, this will result in a surface area reduction of close to 50% over the 10nm process. Allegedly, IBM is aiming for at least a 50% power to performance ratio increase and feel the move from 10nm to 7nm will be more dramatic than 14nm to 10nm.
So how does it all work? SIGe operates at a higher electron mobility than traditional silicon making it the better choice with smaller transistors. Additionally, the gap between silicon nuclei is unbelievably small and cannot transfer current through a standard atomic structure. This is where the germanium alloy comes into play which increases the electron mobility and leads to a proper current flow. EUV is another piece of intriguing technology and designed to help alleviate problems with light etching on smaller chips. This is vital because as the chip size decreases, you have to infuse a narrower beam of light to etch the structure accurately. Currently, this procedure is complex and quite expensive so it’s unsure how long it will be before it becomes a viable option on a large scale.
It’s always fascinating to see the prototype phases of incredibly advanced technological advancements coming to fruition. Yes, 7nm is some time off, but today is the first step on this revolutionary journey.
Thank you ArsTechnica for providing us with this information.