The Evolution of Semiconductor Technology Nodes: Traversing
Moore's Law and Embracing the Future
From Humble Beginnings: Understanding Technology Nodes, the chronicle of technology nodes began with the inception of the semiconductor industry in the 1960s. The “node” refers to a specific generation of semiconductor manufacturing processes, traditionally indicating the length of the smallest feature that can be manufactured on a chip. This feature was often the gate length of a transistor, starting at the micrometer scale (1-micron, 800nm, 600nm…) and advancing to the current era where dimensions are expressed in nanometers (nm) – such as 7nm, 5nm, and even 3nm nodes.
The Latest Advancements
- EUV Lithography: Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography is a revolutionary approach that uses extremely short wavelengths of light to etch finer patterns onto silicon wafers, enabling the continuation of node shrinkage, pivotal for the 7nm node and beyond.
- 3D Stacking: As lateral scaling becomes more challenging; manufacturers are looking vertically. Through techniques like 3D stacking, multiple layers of active electronic components are stacked on top of one another, improving performance and functionality per unit area.
- New Materials and Transistor Designs: Incorporating new materials like graphene and carbon nanotubes, and innovative transistor designs such as Gate-All-Around FETs (GAAFETs) and Nanosheet transistors, engineers are finding ways to reduce leakage and power consumption while boosting performance.
- 2nm and Beyond: Leading companies like TSMC, Intel, and Samsung are not just stopping at the 5nm or 3nm node; they are actively developing the 2nm technology node and researching even more advanced nodes. These future nodes promise further improvements in performance, power, and area (PPA), albeit with increasing complexity and manufacturing challenges.