For 50 years, Moore’s Law has served as a guide for technologists everywhere in the world, setting the pace for the semiconductor industry’s innovation cycle. Moore’s Law has made a tremendous impact not only on the electronics industry, but on our world and our everyday life. It led us from the infancy of the PC era, through the formative years of the internet, to the adolescence of smartphones. Now, with the rise of the Internet of Things, market researchers forecast that in the next 5 years, the number of connected devices per person will more than double, so even after 50 years we don’t see Moore’s Law slowing down.
As chipmakers work tirelessly to continue device scaling, they are encountering daunting technical and economic hurdles. Increasing complexity is driving the need for new materials and new device architectures. Enabling these innovations and the node-over-node success of Moore’s Law requires advancements in precision materials engineering, including precision films, materials removal, materials modification and interface engineering, supported by metrology and inspection.
Though scaling is getting harder, I am confident Moore’s Law will continue because equipment suppliers and chipmakers never cease to innovate. As we face the increasing challenges of new technology inflections, earlier engagement in the development cycle between equipment suppliers and chipmakers is required to uncover new solutions. Such early and deep collaboration is critical to delivering complex precision materials engineering solutions on time. In fact, in the mobility era, earlier and deeper collaboration across the entire value chain is essential (applications, system/hardware, fabless, foundry/IDM, equipment supplier, chemical supplier, component supplier, etc.) to accelerate time to market and extend Moore’s Law.
Today, new 3D architectures, FinFET and 3D NAND, are enabling the extension of Moore’s Law. Dense 3D structures with high aspect ratios create fundamental challenges in device manufacturing. Further, the industry has shifted much of its historical reliance from litho-enabled scaling to materials-enabled scaling, requiring thinner precision films with atomic-scale accuracy. The emphasis on thin conformal films, which can be 2000 times smaller than a human hair, makes it increasingly critical to engineer film properties and manage film interactions between adjacent film surfaces. Selective processing is also a growing requirement, particularly for the deposition and removal of films. We expect more selective applications beyond Epitaxy and Cobalt liner deposition. There will also be a major expansion of new materials in addition to the key inflection of high-k metal gate that helped to reduce power leakage issues associated with scaling.
Gordon Moore’s prediction that ignited an industry will continue to influence our way of life through a combination of architecture and material changes. New process designs and new ways to atomically deposit materials are needed. More processes will be integrated on the same platform without vacuum breaks to create pristine interfaces. As an equipment supplier, we have to manage longer R&D cycles to support the industry’s roadmap, and plan for faster ramp and yield curves. Of utmost importance is staying close to our customers to ensure we deliver solutions with the desired economic and technical benefits.
Looking at the electronics industry from where it is today out to 2020, many more devices will be in use, the world will be more connected and, particularly in emerging markets, there will be greater consumer appetite for more products with advanced features. Given these transformations and demand, I think the growth and excitement in our industry will continue for many more years, thanks to Moore’s Law.
Watch a short video on Moore’s Law.
Dr. Randhir Thakur is executive vice president and general manager of the Silicon Systems Group at Applied Materials, Inc., which comprises the company’s entire portfolio of semiconductor manufacturing systems. In this role, Dr. Thakur is responsible for strengthening the company’s leadership in its core wafer fabrication equipment markets.