There is already a date for transistors smaller than 1 nanometer: the big chipmakers plan to move to angstroms in 2030
The nanometer barrier is nothing more than psychological. Manufacturers such as Intel, TSMC or Samsung have used advanced photolithography techniques to reduce the size of their transistors, but each nanometer they manage to reduce is a giant step.
Currently, 3 nanometer transistors are already being produced, but ASML, the Dutch company that manufactures the equipment used by most semiconductor manufacturers in their foundries, has announced its plan for the next few years and runs until 2030, at which point They foresee that they are manufactured the first transistors below 1 nanometer.
Despite being some years behind in this race, Intel, through its CEO Pat Gelsinger, has already argued that in the industry we should stop talking about nanometers and move on to talking about angstroms (TO). A unit of length commonly used when referring to wavelengths and molecular distances, which is equal to 0.1 nanometers. A change of nomenclature that seen the roadmap ASML makes a lot of sense.
Going below the nanometer will require new techniques, which are already being tested
During its event for investors, ASML has detailed the most relevant points of its strategy and has given a great amount of detail on the semiconductor manufacturing processes for the next decade. Among the messages of this important company are that “Moore’s Law is alive and well” and that for the next few years, the leap to High-NA technology will be made (‘High numerical aperture’).
It is a platform that contains optics with a new design and that allow to improve up to 70% the resolution of the current extreme lithography platform. A machine with better precision that will be used in manufacturing processes from 3 nanometers in lower.
By 2030, ASML hopes to reduce the size of transistors to below the nanometer. By 2026 we would be 1.4 nanometers (or 14 angstroms) and by 2030 it is expected to reach 0.7 nanometers (or 7 angstroms).
These tiny transistors will not be manufactured using the FinFET technique used by manufacturers like Samsung. Instead, technologies such as 2D atomic channels or ‘Complementary FET’ will have to be applied, which consists of stacking transistors vertically.
In 2030, TSMC, one of the large clients of the Dutch company, plans to create processors with more than 300,000 million transistors. For comparison, the Nvidia Ampere GPU has 54,000 million and the AMD Epyc Rome CPU based on Zen 2 and manufactured in 7 nanometers has 39,000 million.
The ASML calculations are that the efficiency in the creation of semiconductors will continue to improve, with a approximate 3x efficiency growth every two years, until 2040.
Forecasts are optimistic and ASML expects the availability of its extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines to be 95% by 2025, expanding daily production capacity by more than 50%. That is, the big company behind semiconductor production is not only waiting for the semiconductor crisis to end, but for production to double.
Image | Laura ockel