Transistors are semiconductor devices that switch and amplify electronic signals and power. Invented in the early 1950s, they are fundamental building blocks of modern electronic devices. As demands have grown over the years for greater performance from these devices, chipmakers have responded by packing wafers with more of the transistors that drive that performance. Today, an advanced microprocessor may use up to three billion transistors.
Multiplying the number of transistors per wafer reduced their unit cost; the accompanying downscaling in transistor dimensions also made them faster and less power-consuming. Chips with greater functionality could be fabricated at a cost that made consumer end products readily affordable; sustaining this decrease in cost has steadily fueled the growing sophistication of, and demand for, such products as mobile phones, tablets, video games, and 3D TV. Demand for smart phones and tablets alone is expected to total five billion units over the next four years. These mobile units will also drive development of a strong cloud infrastructure. Almost 200 million servers will be needed in the next four years to manage the data from these mobile devices. For the transistor, the rise of these types of products marks the next wave of technology - the mobility age.
Much like the personal computer drove technology for processors and memory a decade ago; mobile computing is driving today’s customer technology roadmap. In the past, advances for the personal computer aimed at continually increasing processing speed. For mobile devices, the focus shifts to extending battery life, or lower-power operation, while satisfying the ever-increasing demand for enhanced functionality. With historical planar (2D) scaling of critical materials approaching its limit, the mobility age is driving new 3D transistor architectures that involve more complex technologies and a range of new materials.
Processors are proliferating as device functionality grows—microprocessors, baseband processors, and application processors that integrate multiple processor cores with graphics functionality. The new operating systems for the mobility age rely increasingly on NAND-based memory, which has overtaken dynamic random access memory in mobile devices.
What role does Applied Materials play?
Applied Materials is the industry leader in the technologies that have enabled multiple generations of 2D transistor scaling and that will enable the transition to 3D structures–chemical vapor deposition (CVD), high-k/metal gate physical vapor deposition (PVD), ion implantation, rapid thermal processing (RTP), epitaxy, etch, planarization, and defect inspection.
Applied has been the technology leader in enabling generations of planar scaling and is at the leading edge of serving our customers’ transition to 3D.