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Intel lists challenges for chip scaling

Posted: 12 Feb 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:chip scaling  interconnect  transistor  lithography 

Chip scaling will go on for the next several years, but there are several challenges that await IC makers.

Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration at Intel Corp., outlined these challenges and potential solutions at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference. Bohr listed five major stumbling blocks for the 32nm node and beyond:

1. Patterning or lithography
Problem: Wavelength has been scaling at a slower rate than the IC feature size.

Current solutions: "Resolution-enhancement techniques, such as optical-proximity correction, phase-shift masks, and immersion lithography, have been introduced to bring us to the 32nm generation. But even with these enhancements, layout restrictions, such as unidirectional features, gridded layout and restricted line plus space combinations, have had to be gradually adopted."

Future solutions: "Double-patterning techniques and computational lithography are options being investigated to continue scaling to 22nm and possibly 16nm generations before extreme ultraviolet lithography could be ready to provide a significant wavelength-reduction and resolution enhancement."

2. Transistor options
Problem: Classical scaling ended in the early 2000s due to gate oxide leakage.

Current solutions: "Strained silicon, high-k dielectrics and metal gates have been significant innovations that have allowed MOSFET density, performance and energy efficiency to show continued improvements past when traditional scaling techniques ran out of steam."

Future solutions: "Substrate engineering makes use of wafers to improve p-channel mobility, but may not offer any advantage for n-channel devices. Multi-gate transistors such as FinFET, Tri-Gate and Gate-All-Around devices offer improved electrostatics and steeper sub-threshold slopes, but may suffer from higher parasitic capacitance and parasitic resistance.

"III-IV channel materials such as InSb, InGaAs and InAs are showing promise for providing high switching speed at low operating voltage due to increased carrier mobility, but challenges remain before a practical CMOS solution will be ready.

3. Interconnect options
Problem: New solutions are required to slow resistivity and other problems.

Current solutions: Today's processes use copper interconnects, low-k and other technologies to enable interconnect scaling at a rate of 0.7x per every generation.

Future solutions: "3D chip stacking combined with through-silicon-vias provides a high density of chip-to-chip interconnects. The downside of 3D chip stacking in this manner include the added process costs, the silicon area lost on the chip that has vias cut through it, and the challenges of delivering power and removing heat from the stack.

"Optical interconnects can address this bandwidth bottleneck if technologies can be developed that cost effectively integrate photonics with silicon logic. Using optical interconnects for on-chip signalling may be further off in the future due to the difficulties with scaling optical transceivers and interconnects to the dimensions required."

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