Start-up Seeks New Life for Planar Transistors

SuVolta is pursuing precision doping in its bid to compete with 3-D transistor technology

5 min read
Start-up Seeks New Life for Planar Transistors

7 December 2011—After years of doping, straining, shrinking, and tweaking, engineers seem to have exhausted all their strategies for improving the planar complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) transistors at the heart of today’s computer processors. Producers of cutting-edge chips are now resorting to new structures—building up in three dimensions or constructing transistors in ultrathin layers of silicon—to ensure that devices keep shrinking and that Moore’s Law keeps going just a bit longer.

But semiconductor start-up SuVolta is betting that the traditional planar structure still has some life in it and that it can go toe-to-toe with the new alternative designs. The firm hopes to build a business licensing a technology it says will reduce power consumption and boost performance with minimal changes to the way transistors are made.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper
Green

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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