By Michelle Dickinson 15/07/2015


Moore’s Law, which states that a semiconductors’ computing power will double every two years is going to survive for a few more years thanks to the creation of a new 7nm chip!

Thanks to a research team led by IBM, Global Foundries, Samsung Electronics and SUNY a new prototype chip was just announced which is way ahead of the 22nm and 14nm chips currently on the market and features transistors which are twice as small.

What makes these chips different is that they have been made with 7 nanometer transistors which was only functionally possible by replacing the traditional 100% silicon material with a silicon-germanium mixture instead.

The gap between two silicon nuclei is about 0.5nm and at 7nm the gate width became so small that the small number of silicon atoms in the tiny channel just couldn’t carry enough current. The additional germanium in the silicon within the channel resulted in an increase in electron mobility which allowed more current to flow.

The other tweak they made from conventional chips was to replace the argon fluoride laser used to etch out shapes and features (a technique called pattern lithography) which uses a wavelength of 193nm to an extreme ultraviolet lithography technique which can be much more detailed by using wavelengths down to a mere 10nm.

The transistors showing a a 30nm pitch which is the distance between the front edge of one transistor and the front edge of the next transistor. (Image source IBM)

Another smart move was to create a structure with incredibly tight stacking resulting in a 30nm transistor pitch which is the distance between the front edge of one transistor and the front edge of the next transistor.  IBM claims that this pitch results in a surface area reduction of “close to 50 percent” over today’s already advanced 10nm chip processes.

Why is this awesome news?

It’s awesome because it means in the future your devices can still become smaller and more powerful.

It’s awesome because its going to help us meet the demands of cloud computing,  big data systems and cognitive computing allowing us to make more scientific breakthroughs.

It’s awesome because this new manufacturing technique has the potential have 20 billion transistors packed into a chip the size of a fingernail, which even as a nanotechnologist I find totally nuts.

It’s awesome because 7 nm wide transistors is the equivalent of three times the width of a single strand of DNA, yes, that’s how tiny 7nm is.