IBM boffins unveil 0.08 micron chip process

Electron beams replace light to boost chip transistor counts 1000 times

Scientists at IBM working with colleagues at Nikon have developed a new technology that promises to boost the number of transistors built into a microprocessor by a factor of 1000. The technology, called Prevail (Projection Reduction Exposure With Variable Axis Immersion Lenses), uses beams of electrons to etch the transistors into silicon in place of the optical beams used by chip makers today. The IBM team unveiled the technology earlier this week at a meeting on the International Society for Optical Engineering, held in Santa Clara, California. To increase the transistor count using optical technology, you need to reduce the wavelength of the light used in the etching process. Today's chips contain transistors of 0.18 micron in length, roughly one hundredth of a millimeter. The next stage is to get that down to 0.1 micron. However, electrons have an effective wavelength one hundred thousand times smaller than the light used in lithography today, the upshot of which is it allows chip makers to create transistors thousands of times smaller than they can now. Electron beam technology however presents problems in terms of mass production, because the lines have to be etched one at a time. Current technology on the other hand allows multiple chips to be 'projected' at the same time. A key aspect of the IBM-Nokin breakthourgh, however, is that the electron beam can be projected in a pattern etching many lines simultaneously. IBM's proof of concept system has produced transistors at 0.08 microns -- two and a quarter times smaller than current 0.18 micron transistors, but the research team believes the technology can be refined to shrink that down to beyond 0.03 microns. However, they admit that's going to take some time - it took most of the last decade just to develop the technology and turn it into a working model. ® Related Stories Researchers beat Moore's Law with quantum magic Big Blue boffins to unveil 4.5GHz CPU breakthrough Motorola slims chip transistors to quarter of current size Boffins pave way for 400x rise in CPU transistor count US scientists develop molecular memory Gas chips to replace semiconductors, predicts boffin

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