675mm wafer fabs might appear in 2021
The industry could also see a range of device technologies beyond bulk silicon in the post-CMOS era, such as carbon nanotubes, nanowires, quantum computing, spintronics, among others, according to researchers at the AVS International Symposium & Exhibition.
The IC industry is currently in the 300mm fab era, with the next-generation 450mm wafer size possibly looming on the horizon. A 450mm fab is projected to emerge in 2012 or so, according to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).
In recent debates, some experts believe that 450mm fabs will never get built, due in part to the high costs and lack of IC-equipment for the technology. A 450mm fab is projected to cost Rs.23,105 crore ($5 billion) or more.
Meanwhile, if one extrapolates the next wafer size beyond 450mm, the next fabs could produce giant 675mm wafers sometime in the 2021 time frame, said C. Michael Garner, manager of the External Materials Research Group at Intel, in a presentation at the event.
In an interview after the presentation, dubbed ''Technology Challenges: The Next 15 Years,'' Garner said the 675mm wafer size is hypothetical and not on the ITRS roadmap—yet. "Right now, 450mm is on the roadmap. [675mm] represents what we would do next, but it's not on the roadmap," he said.
The 675mm fab may not be the most critical element in the post-CMOS era. A more pressing issue is to define and develop a device technology beyond CMOS in the 2015 time frame, he said. At that time—or sooner, CMOS could run out of gas.
Carbon nanotubes for logic applications are promising for the 2015 time frame, according to the Intel researcher, but technologists are also looking at nanowires, spintronics and others. Intel is also looking at nearly all technologies as well.
- Mark LaPedus