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Tiny Technology Tricks [May. 8th, 2011|10:03 pm]
Intel has announced a chip manufacturing breakthrough that's quite impressive, at least to people who've worked in or follow the industry. (I've worked for a couple chip manufacturing companies.) Though the article calls this a "3D" manufacturing technique, that's misleading. This isn't about stacking circuits.

Instead, they've found a way to build transistors with little fins. It gets better transfer area and, well, the article explains it nicely if you want to know the details.

The facts I want to point out are in this micrograph of some of their test gates:

That closeup shows the gate geometry they've achieve. And the first thing to note is that these miracles of modern electronics inevitably remind one of waffles. They do! That lattice and spacing just shouts "waffle!"

So I'd like you to remember, in the coming years as Intel utilizes this new manufacturing technique, that your computers are powered by tiny electric waffles. (And that would also be a good name for a rock band.)

The second thing to note is that this is a "22nm process", which means that's basically the "resolution" of the manufacturing. So those wafflewire lines are 22 nanometers across.

This is beyond the "thinner than a human hair" comparison. The mind-blowing smallness of it can be understood if I mention that a silicon atom is a third of a nanometer across. The wires we're printing in chip circuits today are at most 66 atoms wide*!

Isn't living in the future fun?

* Making easy assumptions. Figures no atomic gaps, as if atoms are packed edge to edge. Also, the traces shown are likely less than 22nm, since that's the average of the trace width and gap width and the gaps appear slightly larger in the micrograph (which is expected). So it's probably more like 50 atoms but I don't want to work out the math.

[User Picture]From: harvardheinous
2011-05-09 07:26 am (UTC)
My quick math agrees with yours, same ballpark figure. Impressive.
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[User Picture]From: fjmccloud
2011-05-09 08:13 am (UTC)
Fortunately transistor scaling will be doing well for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately capacitor scaling is doomed. Which means DRAM (as we know it today) is nearing a real, honest dead-end not *too* far into the future. The capacitors just hold too little and need refreshing far too much. Flash memory, already down to 3K write cycles, will reach a similar fate not long after.

So those are what interest me more lately -- what people have in mind to improve capacitors and related storage.
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[User Picture]From: wordweaverlynn
2011-05-09 09:10 am (UTC)
I must link to this. Because my computer is powered by tiny electric waffles.
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[User Picture]From: marko_the_rat
2011-05-09 10:54 am (UTC)
The future is now!
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[User Picture]From: gilmorelion
2011-05-09 02:36 pm (UTC)
Wow, now I just need some 66 atoms-wide syrup and some nano-butter!
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[User Picture]From: sabotlours
2011-05-09 06:45 pm (UTC)
The ghetto version of this chip also includes chicken.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2011-05-09 07:51 pm (UTC)
*rimshot* Zing!

Best I could find was a microscopic silicon osprey. Sorry, no chicken!
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[User Picture]From: sabercat
2011-05-09 07:31 pm (UTC)

Thank you very much.

My waffles are cheap too! You get billions of them for a few hundred bucks! ;)
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[User Picture]From: jedd_marten
2011-05-09 11:27 pm (UTC)
More like Ruffles of silicon -- we're talking chips afterall. :)
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[User Picture]From: regalpewter
2011-05-12 02:54 am (UTC)

Also, an Early wish for you to have a Happy Natal Anniversary! Level Up!

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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2011-05-12 04:47 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
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[User Picture]From: patch_bunny
2011-05-13 02:59 am (UTC)
Fins? How retro. They went out of style with the Cadillac Eldorado.
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[User Picture]From: akktri
2011-08-10 03:31 am (UTC)
Computer chips come in different "flavors." Does this one require syrup?
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