Moore’s Law to take a breather • The Register

Back in the days of Byte magazine still being published, there was a lot of talk and speculation about new technology to create smaller microchips. Some manufacturers were touting Extreme UV, some thought X-rays would be necessary. In the years since then a small modification of existing manufacturing methods was added.

“Immersion” lithography, or exposing lithography masks using water as the means of transmission rather than air was widely adopted to shrink things down. Dipping everything into optically clear water helps keep the UV light from scattering, the way it would if it were travelling through air or a simple vacuum. So immersion has become widespread, adding years to the old technology. Now even the old style UV processes are hitting the end of their useful life times.And Intel is at last touting Extreme UV as the next big thing.

Note this article from April 22, 2008. Intel was not at all confident in how cost effective Extreme UV would be for making chips on it’s production lines. The belief is EUV will allow chips to shrink from 32 nanometers down to the next lower process design rules. According to the article that would be the 22nm level, and would require all kinds fo tricks to achieve. Stuff like double-patterning, phase-shifting, and pixellated exposure masks in addition to immersion litho. They might be able to tweak the lens material for the exposure source, they might be able to tweak the refractive index of the immersion liquid. However the cost of production lines and masks to make the chips is going to sky-rocket. Brand new chip fab plants are still on the order of $1Billion+ to construct. The number of years the cost of those fabrication lines can be spread out (amortization) is not going to be long enough. So it looks like the commoditization of microchips will finally settle in. We will buy chips for less and less per 1,000, until they are like lightbulbs. It is very near the end of an era as Moore’s law finally hits the wall of physics.

Diminishing Returns of process shrinks

iSuppli is not talking about these problems, at least not today. But what the analysts at the chip watcher are pondering is the cost of each successive chip-making technology and the desire of chip makers not to go broke just to prove Moore’s Law right.

via iSuppli: Moore’s Law to take a breather • The Register.




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