Feeds

IBM scientists claim chip breakthrough

Really microprocessors

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Scientists at IBM say they have figured out how to produce smaller and more powerful microchips than previously thought possible. It is hoped IBM's announcement at San Jose on Monday will mean the creation of miniscule microprocessors which will save the IT manufacturing sector billions of dollars.

The breakthrough revolves around the distance between the circuit-lines chip makers must 'draw' onto the surface of a computer processor. IBM scientists declared they can now draw lines on silicon much closer together than ever before.

Current techniques are not expected to work on chips smaller than 32nm. However, staff at IBM Research have created structures on a processor measuring 29.9nm, using a form of deep-ultraviolet optical lithography.

This technology 'prints' circuits onto chips in a method similar in principle to the way t-shirt manufacturers stamp images onto material using the silk-screening method.

Optical lithography has been in use for some time and it was thought it would need to be abandoned in the coming years; however, this development means the process needn't be phased out just yet. The IBM announcement also gives the industry time to come up with new manufacturing processes for increasingly smaller chips.

The entire semiconductor industry exists under the threat of Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who in 1965 predicted that the number of transistors on a chip would have to double every few years until it became physically impossible to fit them onto a processor.

"Our goal is to push optical lithography as far as we can so the industry does not have to move to any expensive alternatives until absolutely necessary," IBM manager of lithography materials Dr Robert D Allen said.

"This result is the strongest evidence to date that the industry may have at least seven years of breathing room before any radical changes in chip-making techniques would be needed," he said.

The semiconductor industry is continually attempting to make microchips more powerful by fitting extra transistors onto a piece of silicon. This research typically leads to smaller, faster and cheaper electronics. Chip companies have looked into alternatives to optical lithography - such as using x-rays - but the technology is far from perfect and cost is unknown.

Chips with circuit lines 65nm wide are gradually being made available and chipmakers believe they can shrink to 32sm by about 2010 using optical lithography, but they are finding it increasingly difficult to postpone Moore's Law.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
More alleged private, nude celeb pics appear online
Wanna keep your data for 1,000 YEARS? No? Hard luck, HDS wants you to anyway
Combine Blu-ray and M-DISC and you get this monster
US boffins demo 'twisted radio' mux
OAM takes wireless signals to 32 Gbps
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Apple flops out 2FA for iCloud in bid to stop future nude selfie leaks
Millions of 4chan users howl with laughter as Cupertino slams stable door
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
Students playing with impressive racks? Yes, it's cluster comp time
The most comprehensive coverage the world has ever seen. Ever
Run little spreadsheet, run! IBM's Watson is coming to gobble you up
Big Blue's big super's big appetite for big data in big clouds for big analytics
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.