The next leap for semiconductors after the 10-nm process node is 7 nm, and it appears that IBM Research is helping to pave the way. According to a report by Ars Technica, the company has announced successful production of 7-nm test chips at its joint research facilities at the SUNY Polytechnic Insititute.
Ars reports that the test product uses 7-nm FinFETs with silicon-germanium (SiGe) alloy channels. This new alloy is apparently one of three advancements that made the 7-nm test chip possible, the others being self-aligned quadruple patterning and an EUV light source with a wavelength of only 13.5 nanometers.
IBM told Ars that chips built on this 7-nm process could be up to 50% smaller by surface area than those produced on the 10-nm node. The company also says it's looking for at least a 50% improvement in power-to-performance over 10-nm silicon with the new process.
It's not clear when commercial products based on a 7-nm process will come to market, but the fact that IBM is able to produce functional test chips with this technology is an exciting step on the road. Given that we're still waiting on 10-nm products from other manufacturers, it'll likely be a long wait, but it seems as if Moore's Law will march on a little longer yet.
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