An Integrated Circuit, commonly referred to as an IC, is a miniaturized array of electronic circuits that have been implanted on the surface of a silicon chip. Integrated circuits are used in almost all electronic equipment in use today and have gradually made increasing emphasis in the world of electronics. New discoveries and advancement in technology have brought about better ways of designing the IC, with emphasis on smaller length scales. This report addresses the issues faced in the improvement of IC design and fabrication.
The semiconductor industry has distinguished itself by the rapid exponential growth of its products, which is in line with Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors that can be placed on a chip doubles every 18months. Some of the areas of improvement have been in the size of transistors on chip, cost, speed and functionality of the products. These improvements have occurred mainly, as a result of the industry being able to decrease the minimum feature size used to fabricate the Integrated Circuit.
A few years back, transistor sizes were measured in micron- now they are measured in nanometres. The reduction in minimum feature size has created an avenue for technological improvement, so as to accommodate the increasing demands for reduced chip size. The significance of the latest size reduction is that the transistors have fallen well below 0.1micron. As this reduction in feature size continues to grow exponentially, certain levels of accuracy, reliability and functionality will be expected. In order to achieve this level of precision, new methods will be approached and explored. The cost of production is an important area that has to be taken into consideration. This is because most of the industries work with a limited budget and also have to market their products. Ongoing research shows that major improvements are being considered, with design and architectural aspects being major areas of concentration. This new technology can also be applied in mobile phones, televisions, automobiles and various systems, because the industry has a great impact on other disciplines which are linked in various ways directly or indirectly.
An obvious benefit of smaller size transistors is better transistor density- the same number of chips but less area is used. Technologies with small feature size results in an improvement in both performance and productivity. A potential drawback to this growth is that hardware advances outpace ability to build software to tap potential
Also, the device scaling method does not necessarily take into account performance and reliability issues and this area needs to be tackled to aid in the evolution of Integrated Circuits.
The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) deem that the continued scaling of electronics would further reduce the cost per function and promote market growth for Integrated Circuits, and thereby address the challenges that face the semiconductor industry by encouraging the research and development of new and improved methods. Further research and development projects hope to produce chips that are faster, cheaper and consume less power than the current generation of chips. The use of this technology could be regarded as limitless.
As we delve further into the 21st century, advanced methods will be required to measure the miniaturized features of transistors for future purposes and also electrical characteristics, cost and thermal dissipation issues need to be addressed adequately, as current methods of tackling these areas may not be satisfactory in the future.