New Breakthrough in Semiconductor Wiring Paves Way For 3nm Smartphone Chips

Semiconductor companies like TSMC, Samsung and others have been moving towards 3nm chips, but they do have problems to solve.


You know how chips are always getting smaller? The chips on our current flagship smartphones are made on a 5nm technology node, but companies are already planning to move past that as well. Chip giant TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Company) and Samsung have been said to be working on 3nm nodes already, but such advancement does have its challenges. IBM showed a prototype 3nm chip a while back, and now American chip company, Applied Materials, has unveiled a new way that allows wiring to be laid on advanced logic chips that use 3nm technology nodes.

Why is this relevant? Well, just imagine how small 3nm really is. You can’t can you? Well most of us can’t. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, and most of us can’t fathom how small that is. To make it even simpler, the diameter of a human hair is about 100,000 nanometer. Which means 3nm is well…let’s just say it’s really small.

In chip manufacturing, the nanometer refers to the size of the semiconductor die on which a logic circuit is fabricated. The size of this die directly impacts the efficiency, speed and power these chips deliver. Now imagine any circuit board you have seen, and imagine putting down that intricate design of transistors, resistors etc. onto a piece of silicon that is smaller than the diameter of the human hair.

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

Applied Materials’ new solution is called Endura Copper Barrier Seed IMS, which uses seven different process technologies under high vacuum. We’ll spare you the technical jargon about those technologies, but suffice to say that it solves the current problems.

“A smartphone chip has tens of billions of copper interconnects, and wiring already consumes a third of the chip’s power,” Prabu Raja, senior VP and GM of the semiconductor products group at Applied Materials, told Digitimes. “Integrating multiple process technologies in vacuum allows us to reengineer materials and structures so that consumers can have more capable devices and longer battery life. This unique, integrated solution is designed to accelerate the performance, power and area-cost roadmaps of our customers,” he added.