AMD and IBM this week announced they had produced a working
test chip utilizing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to produce the first
layer of metal connections across the entire chip.
This may sound like something only an electrical engineer
could care about, but like Intel’s high-k metal gate breakthrough a year ago,
this has a major practical value for customers.
Lithography is the process for building these dime-sized
chips with hundreds of millions of transistors. The more transistors that are
added, the denser things get and tighter everything gets packed. Each
transistor has to be connected with microscopic metal lines, and with smaller
manufacturing processes, there is less room for the lines.
The lines between transistors are based directly on the
wavelength used to make them. EUV allows for using a wavelength of 13.5
nanometers much shorter than today’s 193nm lithography techniques. So it means
IBM and AMD will be able to continue to pack more transistors on a chip while
making them smaller at the same time.
It will be a while before EUV makes its debut. AMD
expects EUV lithography will be fully qualified for production by 2016, when it
makes the move to 22nm manufacturing.