TSMC, the world's largest dedicated semiconductor foundry, has demonstrated a working device which uses CMOS transistors that are about 10 times smaller than those made with today's most advanced production technology.
The transistor, a variation on today's FETs, is known as a FinFET because in three dimensions the company claims it resembles the backfin of a fish. It has been researched by IBM, among others.
TSMC has produced operational FinFETs at gate lengths as small as 35nm. Initial testing of the p- and n-type transistors revealed compliance with the current and leakage targets set by industry roadmaps for transistor of this size. TSMC claims that new performance records are being set, but would not comment further about the transistor's operating specifications.
Dr Chenming Hu, TSMC's chief technology officer, says the company has recently further improved the FinFET, creating gate lengths below 25nm that achieved yet higher performance. The researchers have also simulated the structure to operate within generally acceptable parameters at gate lengths of 9nm.
Traditional transistors involve two components, one providing source and drain routes for the electrical current and the other gating the current. As semiconductor technology is scaled to ever-smaller feature sizes, gating becomes more difficult, leading to high current leakage and hot semiconductors.
FinFET overcomes these difficulties by providing a second gate to allow both sides of the source and drain structure to be closed at the same time. TSMC says double-gating in this manner provides better control and reduces leakage, allowing the transistor size to be shrunk further and current to be increased.
TSMC believes its technology will allow the industry to extend the life of CMOS technology by about two decades.