Improved Materials Dominate Chip Evolution, Technologist
Tells ISMI Symposium Austin, TX (2 November 2005)
- Material innovation has replaced scaling as the
primary source of performance and feature improvements
in leading-edge CMOS semiconductors, IBM technologist
Paul Farrar, Jr. told attendees at the ISMI Symposium
on Manufacturing Effectiveness here.
Farrar, vice president for semiconductor process development
at IBM, said "scheduled innovation" is responsible
for more than 60 percent of CMOS performance gain at
the 65 nm technology generation, and nearly that much
for the 90 nm generation.
"Innovation is the key to the industry," Farrar noted. "There
is no new technology --there is not the 'next CMOS' - so [progress] has to be
innovation off of CMOS," Farrar said. In the future, he added, "the
majority of advancements will be dictated by how well we integrate new materials" such
as strained silicon and films for high-k metal gate and low-k back end of line
Farrar's comments preceded other Symposium discussions in which economist Dan
Hutcheson of VLSI Research, Inc asserted that Moore's Law will continue defying
predictions of its demise, and a panel of industry experts expressed a cautious
approach to 450 mm wafer conversion.
The second annual ISMI Symposium on Manufacturing Effectiveness was sponsored
recently by the International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) to bring
together technologists to work on solutions to the industry's most pressing manufacturing
issues. ISMI was formed in 2004 with a mission to provide solutions to current
and future fab challenges for manufacturing-oriented chip-makers. ISMI's members
are AMD, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Infineon, Intel, Panasonic, Philips,
Samsung, Spansion, TSMC, and Texas Instruments.
In a keynote address, IBM's Farrar predicted that the development of new materials
would continue to move beyond the familiar substances of silicon, oxygen, and
nitrogen and toward more obscure chemistries. "We're going to use a lot
more elements - maybe 80 on the periodic chart," he said.
To successfully develop and integrate new materials into manufacturing, Farrar
said close collaborations with suppliers and other manufacturers are indispensable
- but all parties must be willing to listen to other viewpoints and concepts. "The
best idea is the one you get from somebody else," he added.
Farrar added that global alliances with organizations such as ISMI and SEMATECH
have allowed IBM to innovate in films and immersion lithography more quickly
than the company would have done working alone. "Innovation is the key challenge
of the semiconductor industry," Farrar concluded. "For us at IBM, R&D
partnerships have really helped us realize innovation."
During a subsequent talk, VLSI CEO Hutcheson declared that Moore's Law will continue
to defy predictions of its demise, reasserting itself with new technologies while
producing increasingly versatile microchips at continuously lower costs per transistor.
He added that the microchip industry is the main driver of the world's economic
engine and that its growth will continue, even if limits to planar CMOS force
a shift to unfamiliar and more expensive technologies.
"Moore's Law is still alive and well," Hutcheson declared. "The
show will go on...Just because there's a sunset doesn't mean there won't be a
While acknowledging that product saturation since 1995 has slowed the industry's
growth to 6 to 8 percent a year and that conventional CMOS may be coming to an
end, he said the world isn't about to forsake microchips. Instead, chip manufacturing
will migrate to new technologies, such as spintronics, carbon nanotubes, nanowire,
and pattern self-assembly. According to Hutcheson, "there's plenty of room
left at the bottom."
In defending the law first articulated by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, Hutcheson
recited several statistics that he said indicate its viability:
* The number of transistors produced in the world reached 1018 in 2004, compared
to just over a million in 1955. This reflects an increase amounting to 12 orders
of magnitude in about 50 years.
* Average price per transistor in "nanodollars" has fallen steadily
from 1 million (one-tenth of a cent) in 1975 to about 100 (one ten-millionth
of a cent) this year.
* Chips' critical dimensions have shrunk from 5000 nm to 90 nm between 1974 and
Even if Moore's Law eventually hits "Moore's Wall," that doesn't mean
the end for the chip industry. According to Hutcheson, the early auto industry
followed a Moore's-like path of declining unit prices and increasingly sophisticated
products before maturing with slowly increasing prices in the 1920s. Nevertheless,
the industry survived because it had become thoroughly integrated in society.
"The world didn't say, 'Cars are getting more expensive, so we're going
back to horses,' " Hutcheson quipped.
Elsewhere at the Symposium, a distinguished panel of industry experts appeared
to support a cautious approach to 450 mm wafer conversion and stressed the importance
of collaborative solutions to manufacturing problems.
"If you fail to move fast, and you fail to collaborate, you may fail to
exist," said Michael O'Halloran, director of technology for IDC. "The
[companies] that are out there surviving are the ones that were involved in collaboration." Information-sharing
has been critical for industry players in adapting to the demands of 300 mm manufacturing,
other panelists said.
However, the consensus seemed to favor a deliberate approach on the introduction
of 450 mm wafers, currently called for in 2011 by the International Technology
Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). Intel's Mani Janakiram, manager of Analysis
and Control Technologies at Intel, called for the industry to develop a "strong,
definitive economic model" to analyze the costs and risks of conversion.
Eric Englhardt, director of automation products for Applied Materials, said manufacturers
should "look at ways of dramatically improving the efficiency of the factory" before
trying to negotiate a new wafer size, and should consider alternatives to conversion.
But he added, "Maybe we can't stop it... and we'll be driven to that, and
there will be many changes in our industry. So I think we have to be prepared
for both worlds."
On a related topic, Shige Kobayashi, Senior Engineer at Renesas Technology, said
the equipment and information complexities of new 300 mm factories may require
renewed emphasis on workforce development. "Engineers may need to be retrained," Kobayashi
And Arieh Greenberg, Senior Principal at Infineon Technologies, said design for
manufacturing (DFM) is becoming a larger issue in what he termed "the age
"How do we integrate design into manufacturing, and what would be the role
of the factory to improve design?" Greenberg said.
ISMI is a global alliance of the world's major semiconductor
manufacturers, dedicated to reducing cost per wafer,
and ultimately cost per die, through cooperative
programs focused on manufacturing effectiveness.
The consortium conducts programs in manufacturing
infrastructure, methods, standards, and productivity,
with the aim of reducing the costs of producing finished
wafers and chips and driving solutions to major productivity
challenges. ISMI is a wholly owned subsidiary of
SEMATECH of Austin, TX.