How small are the transistors on the chip?
In the most advanced chips, transistors are as small as viruses, that is, about 50-100 nanometers (one nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter). In this paper, we will see how the size of transistors has developed from the invention of integrated circuit (IC) in 1959 to today.
Moore's law, a self fulfilling prophecy
In 1965, Intel founder Gordon Moore published a famous article, which has become a prediction for many years: the number of transistors integrated into the chip doubles every two years. This article is a real treasure in the history of electronics and may be one of the most influential articles in the follow-up development of this branch of science and technology. The following figure shows Moore in his famous article.
This growth of mathematics has a name: exponential law. Since then, the increase in the number of transistors in IC or chip (they are two common terms) has followed this trend, which is called Moore's law in the electronic world.
This prediction has become a "self fulfilling prophecy" in the microelectronics industry, and manufacturers insist on realizing it every year. Of course, this is not just about achieving forecasts, but seeking (and discovering) the benefits of trends that have almost a "sacred mission" for the industry. When you read Moore's article, you will be surprised to find that the predictions he made in his article have not only come true, but also done it year after year for half a century. In any other industrial sector, it is not easy to find a prediction "chase" as certain as this one.
Therefore, since its launch in the late 1950s, IC has experienced unprecedented growth in the next few years, initially driven by the U.S. space program and military industry. More and more transistors are being made. If the first IC integrates dozens of transistors, there will be thousands of ICs on the market in a few years. Today, there are billions of transistorized ICs.
Due to the great development of its manufacturing process, the number of transistors in IC can be significantly increased. The process used in microelectronics is reminiscent of the mass production of cars, so a large number of identical complete circuits can be copied on a single silicon semiconductor chip at the same time. The process mainly includes printing multiple geometric patterns on the silicon surface, which allows the definition of each device that makes up it, and then selectively depositing various insulating and conductive materials to correctly interconnect different components. With the help of the real bottleneck technology in IC manufacturing: lithography, all this is possible.
What is the real meaning of Moore's law?
To better understand the meaning of Moore's law, imagine the reader going back to the past. By 1971, I was going to listen to an opera in an auditorium that could accommodate 2300 people. The number of transistors was exactly the same as the first microprocessor 4004 manufactured by Intel that year. If the capacity of the auditorium follows Moore's law, but if the space it occupied and recovered in 1982 is not changed, 134000 people will gather in the same venue - the capacity of a large football field and the capacity of Intel 286 processor. Many years later, in 2000, the auditorium could accommodate the entire population of Tokyo - 37 million people, the same number of transistors as the latest version of Intel Pentium III processor; If the audition is held in 2011, it will encounter 1. 3 billion people - the total population of China or the number of transistors in one of the Intel Core i7 processor versions - if they participate in 2019, the audience will reach 7.4 billion, that is, the whole population planet - and the number of transistors built into IBM Z13 storage controller. Finally, if the audition is held in 2021, the capacity will be equivalent to two earths, because it must gather 15 billion people, that is, the number of transistors of bionic a 15 processor (equipped with the new iPhone 13). As shown in the figure below. The population of the entire planet - and the number of transistors built into IBM Z13 storage controllers. Finally, if the audition is held in 2021, the capacity will be equivalent to two earths, because it must gather 15 billion people, that is, the number of transistors of bionic a 15 processor (equipped with the new iPhone 13). As shown in the figure below. The population of the entire planet - and the number of transistors built into IBM Z13 storage controllers. Finally, if the audition is held in 2021, the capacity will be equivalent to two earths, because it must gather 15 billion people, that is, the number of transistors of bionic a 15 processor (equipped with the new iPhone 13).
Strictly speaking, the chip area has also increased slightly over the years, but the proportion is much smaller. For example, the Intel 4004 occupies 12mm ² (3mm x 4mm), while the surface area of bionic a 15 is 107.7mm ² (8.58mm x 12.55mm), so the proportion of the transistor is multiplied by 6870.000 and the area is 9.
We need to make the transistors smaller and smaller
Integrating more and more transistors on a chip means reducing its size, which brings advantages, but at the cost of increasing the complexity of the manufacturing process. The smaller the chip, the smaller the transistor itself. At the same time, the cost of processing wafers remains roughly the same regardless of how many chips can be obtained from each wafer. This means that reducing the size of transistors will lead to cheaper chips. Alternatively, the chip can remain the same size so that there are more components inside. This makes it more powerful, but not expensive. Most importantly, reducing the size of the transistor can improve its performance without increasing power consumption. In other words, chip manufacturers have a strong incentive to reduce the size of transistors. That's what they have been doing for the past few decades, in which the number of transistors on the chip has increased from thousands to billions. This is a very small size for transistors. The figure below shows one such transistor.
To understand what this small size means, imagine we expand the size of the chip with integrated transistors until it is similar to the area occupied by the Madrid community (8000 square kilometers). On this scale, each transistor will occupy or area. 5 square meters, equivalent to the screen area of a 40 inch diameter TV.
Purdue University Professor Mark Lundstrom began working in the chip industry in the 1970s. He wrote an article for Science in 2003, predicting that Moore's law will reach its physical limit in 2015. Lundstrom said that during his career, he had thought many times, "well, it's over." He remembered attending his first chip manufacturing conference in 1975. In his words, "a man named Gordon Moore gave a speech. He was famous in the technology world, but no one knew who he was. I remember his speech." soon we can put 10000 transistors on a chip. What can 10000 transistors do on a chip? "Moore said
Today, there are 15 billion transistors on the market. What can your designers and manufacturers do with them?