SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.It'll be at least a human generation before Moore's Law begins to run out of gas at around the 9nm and even then it may thrive, TSMC's chief technologist said Tuesday (March 12).
Calvin Chenming Hu told an audience at the annual Semico Summit conference here that the 9nm node "can be ready more or less on time, in 2028 according to long-term forecasts or 2024 according to the 2002 (industry roadmap)." Transistor and reliability physics allow for 9nm devices, although circuit and architectural innovations surely will be need to handle anticipated voltage of roughly 0.5V.
"Fundamental limits are still a ways off," he said.
Such a roadmap would allow the equipment industry a full 25 years to reduce lithography by 10x, where the previous 10x reduction took 15 years. "There's a lot of time," he said.
Roadblocks to Moore's Law scaling include design productivity, fab costs, reliability, lithography, leakage and materials, among other issues. But Hu said TSMC, a pure-play foundry that was second only to Hyundai in total 8-inch-equivalent wafers shipped last year, is working on these and other problems actively with partners.
On one front, TSMC, which has vaulted in recent years into a technology leadership role, is researching a 35nm CMOS FinFET that creates etched "fins" on wafers between the source and drain to help solve the leakage problems at that node. It's a way, he said, to avoid the manufacturing issues associated with another approach to halting leakage: double-gate structures.
"This is not far-out research," he said. "It meets threshold requirements at the 35nm gate length." The approach is scalable to the 9nm node by simulation, he claimed.
Hu also tried to calm uncertainty as the industry still struggles out of its worst recession, following a year (2001) that had revenues that were virtually the same as 1995's but which saw lower profitability than that earlier time.
Last year's semiconductor sales were 17 percent of all electronics sales and 0.7 percent of the gross world product, a percentage that has risen slowly but steadily for 40 years. Hu said that a generation from now, semiconductors will comprise 5.6 percent of the gross world product.