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Big Blue signs up for extreme ultra-violet action

Tech to make possible 10GHz, 0.1 micron CPUs

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IBM has joined Intel's Extreme Ultra Violet consortium to help develop next-generation lithography techniques capable of creating on-chip circuitry less than 0.1 micron in size.

At its most basic, the process of making chips involves photographically etching the circuitry onto the chip material and burning away the bits in between the 'wires'.

To create narrower lines - and therefore tinier transistors - chip makers use light of the lowest possible wavelength. Far-spectrum ultra-violet light is seen as the next stage in shrinking transistors to increase processor functionality and clock speeds.

Chipzilla reckons EUV will enable chips to reach clock speeds of up to 10GHz by the middle of the decade.

And so, it seems, does IBM. Actually, it has for some time. The EUV band of the spectrum was always going to be the next big hurdle for lithographers. IBM has been talking to the EUV consortium for a while now, it transpires, and today's announcement that it will participate is just a matter of making its unofficial relationship official.

Why the change? IBM would probably have joined in on a more formal basis sooner or later, but it's telling that the announcement was made on the same day that Big Blue said it was partnering with Sony and Toshiba on a next-gen broadband-oriented processor to be built on - you guessed it - 0.1 micron circuitry.

IBM isn't the only partner in the EUV consortium (incorporated as an R&D company of the same name). In addition to Intel, it's joining AMD, Motorola, Micron and Infineon. ®

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