TSMC, MIT and NTU Announce 1nm Chip Breakthrough Weeks After IBM’s 2nm Success

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), and the National University of Taiwan (NTU) jointly announced on Tuesday, that a significant breakthrough was made in the development of 1-nanometer (nm) chips. The international journal Nature published the research results.

The research results found that what can greatly reduce the resistance and increase the current is the use of semi-metal bismuth (Bi) as the contact electrode of the two-dimensional (2D) material. This can achieve energy efficiency close to the existing physical limits of semiconductor sizes.

According to the report, the discovery was first made by the MIT team, and then TSMC optimized the “easy deposition process.” The helium ion beam lithography system was used by NTU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Optoelectronics to successfully reduce the component channel.

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Interestingly, the 1nm news follows IBM’s big announcement earlier this month of its 2nm chip, which, according to the American tech company, will have 45% higher performance and use 75% less energy than today’s 7nm node chips.

For decades, chipmakers such as TSMC and IBM, have put more transistors – the key components of microchips – onto ever smaller surfaces. This phenomenon, known as Moore’s law, proposes that the number of transistors per unit area doubles about every two years.

However, chipmakers are now approaching the physical limit and the performance of the chip can no longer be significantly improved year by year.

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In recent years, the scientific community has been unable to solve the problems of high resistance and low current of 2D materials in its active search for 2D materials that can replace silicon.

According to the report, the research results of the three organizations could replace the next generation of chips and provide favorable outcomes such as high speed and saving electricity. In the future, it is expected to be used in disease prediction, electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technology applications.

However, at the moment even 2nm semiconductors will likely take years before becoming available in everyday devices. Today’s leading chips are 5nm, for example, and are only just appearing in premium smartphones.

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TSMC, the world’s largest chip foundry, has updated its latest semiconductor production roadmap in which it plans to start production of 4nm chips this year, while mass production should be achieved in 2022. The Hsinchu, Taiwan-based chipmaker said that production of the 3nm chip will start in the second half of 2022. 

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