The Rise of the Monolithic 3-D Chip

Researchers aim to ease miniaturization pressure with dense 3-D circuitry instead of stacked chips

4 min read
The Rise of the Monolithic 3-D Chip
Two-story Circuit: Multistory circuits could let chipmakers increase the density of devices on a chip without having to shrink transistors.
Image: CEA-Leti

Ever since the integrated circuit made its debut, semiconductors have been “single-story” affairs. But chipmakers are now considering ways to build additional transistor-packed layers right on top of the first. The approach—dubbed monolithic, or sequential, fabrication—could boost the density, efficiency, and performance of logic chips without necessitating a move to smaller transistors. And that could be a boon for an industry that is seriously contemplating the end of miniaturization.

The concept of 3-D circuitry is nothing new. Chips are routinely packaged one on top of another. Nowadays, this packaging is increasingly done using large copper pillars—called through-silicon vias, or TSVs—to vertically connect already-completed chips.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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