Samsung and IBM have a plan to keep Moore's Law alive

Samsung and IBM have a plan to keep Moore's Law alive
Intel co-founder and former CEO Gordon Moore made an observation in 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors on a silicon chip doubled every year, and revised that in 1975. After the revision, the "Law" stated that the number of transistors on a silicon chip doubles every other year.

Tech firms like Samsung and IBM are working to keep Moore's Law alive for some years to come

Moore's Law has held up over the years and is important because the higher the number of transistors on a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient that chip is. And the most powerful chips used on mobile devices like smartphones already sport an amazingly large number of transistors. For example, the 5nm A15 Bionic used to  power the iPhone 13 series carries 15 billion transistors in each chip which is one billion less than the 16 billion transistors found inside the iPad Pro's M1 chip.

As the number of transistors inside a chip grows, the size of each one continues to shrink because that is the only way to fit more transistors inside each chip without making the chip bigger. Next year TSMC is expected to start testing the production of chips using the 3nm process node and it isn't clear whether it will be able to use this node for the A16 Bionic or whether the 2022 iPhone models will be powered by a 4nm SoC.

To keep Moore's Law alive, we told you about ASML's High NA EUV machine that will be able to transfer extremely thin circuitry patterns on silicon wafers to help in the production of these components. And according to Engadget, IBM and Samsung have another new technology that might also keep Moore's Law alive. Called Vertical Transport Field Effect Transistors (VTFET), these are transistors that stack vertically on a chip.

The current design used on SoCs and processors call for the transistors to lie flat on a silicon surface as the current flows from side to side. With VTFET, the transistors are placed perpendicular to each other and the current flows vertically. IBM and Samsung say that this design will allow them to work around limitations that threaten Moore's Law and will also lead to less wasted energy due to greater current flow.

The bottom line, according to the two tech firms, is that chips using the VTFET transistors will be able to perform twice as fast as previous components or consume 85% less energy than chips powered by FinFET transistors. TSMC is sticking to FinFET for its 3nm process node while Samsung is expected to move to Gate All-Around (GAA) for its 3nm chips. IBM and Samsung say that VTFET chips could someday allow smartphones to go a full week without charging up the batteries.

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IBM and Samsung say that they don't know when the new design will be commercialized. You might recall that this past May, IBM produced the world's first 2nm chip using Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistors and its nanosheet technology that allows IBM to fit as many as 50 billion transistors into a space the size of a fingernail. To visualize that, consider that Apple's M1 Max carries 57 billion transistors and is a larger chip than the M1.

Intel is taking its own path to keep Moore's Law in force by designing angstrom-scale chips with the goal of having them ramp up in 2024. One angstrom (1A) is equivalent to .1nm and each silicon atom weighs in at 1.92A. Intel plans to take chip production under the 1nm architecture with its Intel 20A process node. This node will use RibbonFET, Intel's first new transistor architecture since 2011.

RibbonFET is Intel's version of Gate All-Around which we previously pointed out is what Samsung plans on using with its 3nm chips. The best minds in the business are working to keep Moore's Law alive and the future of all the products we love is at stake.

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