Engineers Evolve Transistors for Next-Gen Chips

Evolutionary algorithms lead to new logic and memory that may smooth the way as CMOS nears its size limits

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12 May 2009—Concepts gleaned from the study of evolutioncould help overcome manufacturing problems in future computer chips. That’s the hope, at least, of researchers in the Intelligent Systems Group at the University of York, in England, who will present their findings next week at the IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation, in Trondheim, Norway.

As key components of transistors shrink from 45 to 22 nanometers, tiny natural variations in manufacturing—which make no difference in larger devices—start to affect performance. For instance, there’s no way to control the exact arrangement of atoms of doping elements within a lattice of silicon, and different levels of dopant will alter electrical effects. At these tiny sizes, line edges and surfaces that define components also have a natural roughness that can’t be avoided and can trip up a transistor’s function.

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The State of the Transistor in 3 Charts

In 75 years, it’s become tiny, mighty, ubiquitous, and just plain weird

3 min read
A photo of 3 different transistors.

The most obvious change in transistor technology in the last 75 years has been just how many we can make. Reducing the size of the device has been a titanic effort and a fantastically successful one, as these charts show. But size isn’t the only feature engineers have been improving.

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