The transistor is a key area of the chip and the focal point for increasing its speed. Manufacturers are continually improving their designs, making these devices smaller and more densely packed in each square millimeter of silicon. However, to make these transistors work reliably at the more advanced technology nodes, new materials and designs are needed.
To pack billions of transistors on today’s most advanced microchips, manufacturers must seemingly defy the laws of physics, using complex lithography methods to print, or “pattern” the wafer with chip features that can be a thousand times smaller than a human hair.
Interconnects, the electrical pathways that connect transistors and other circuit components to one another – and to the outside world, are critical to the speed and reliability of a microchip. Because modern microprocessors can have as many as ten levels of interconnects, this intricate structure is one of the most process-intensive – thus most costly – portions of the total chip fabrication process.
An emerging area for Applied Materials' technology is in three-dimensional integrated circuits (3D-ICs), a type of chip packaging done at the wafer level to streamline the manufacturing process. In a 3D-IC, multiple chips are vertically stacked in a single package to deliver higher performance and functionality in a smaller area. The chips are electrically connected using deep holes called through-silicon vias (TSVs).
After following Moore’s Law for nearly 40 years, increasing the storage capacity of traditional, two-dimensional memory chips by decreasing the size of its features, called “scaling,” is becoming very difficult. For example, an advanced 25nm flash memory chip stores each bit of information using approximately 100 electrons. Containing those electrons reliably over millions of read/write cycles is a major challenge – and achievement.
MEMS devices are all around us today – from accelerometers and gyroscopes that enable today’s sophisticated mobile interfaces to automobile navigation and airbag sensors, and medical and communications devices. Applied Materials has the industry’s most comprehensive range of production-proven systems for MEMS device manufacturing, offering customers cost-effective processes for the most critical MEMS device fabrication applications.