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VLSI Technology: Historical Perspective

Scaling Moores Law 3D VLSI

The beginning
Microprocessors are essential to many of the products we use every day such as TVs, cars, radios, home appliances and of course, computers. Transistors are the main components of microprocessors.

At their most basic level, transistors may seem simple. But their development actually required many years of painstaking research. Before transistors, computers relied on slow, inefficient vacuum tubes and mechanical switches to process information. In 1958, engineers managed to put two transistors onto a Silicon crystal and create the first integrated circuit, which subsequently led to the first microprocessor.

Prominent Trends in information technologies

MOSFET performance

Transistor Size Scaling

improves as size is decreased: shorter switching time, lower power consumption.

2 orders of magnitude reduction in transistor size in 30 years.

Significant Breakthroughs
Transistor size: Intels research labs have recently shown the worlds smallest transistor, with a gate length of 15nm. We continue to build smaller and smaller transistors that are faster and faster. We've reduced the size from 70 nanometer to 30 nanometer to 20 nanometer, and now to 15 nanometer gates.
Manufacturing process: A new manufacturing process called 130 nanometer process technology (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter) allows Intel today to manufacture chips with circuitry so small it would take almost 1,000 of these "wires" placed sideby-side to equal the width of a human hair. This new 130-nanometer process has 60nm gate-length transistors and six layers of copper interconnect. This process is producing microprocessors today with millions of transistors and running at multigigahertz clock speeds.

Wafer size: Wafers, which are round polished disks made of silicon, provide the base on which chips are manufactured. Use a bigger wafer and you can reduce manufacturing costs. Intel has begun using a 300 millimeter (about 12 inches) diameter silicon wafer size, up from the previous wafer size of 200mm (about 8 inches).

Major Design Challenges

Microscopic issues ultra-high speeds power dissipation and supply rail drop growing importance of interconnect noise, crosstalk reliability, manufacturability clock distribution
Year 1997 1998 1999 2002 Tech. 0.35 0.25 0.18 0.13 Complexity 13 M Tr. 20 M Tr. 32 M Tr. 130 M Tr. Frequency 400 MHz 500 MHz 600 MHz 800 MHz

Macroscopic issues time-to-market design complexity (millions of gates) high levels of abstractions design for test reuse and IP, portability systems on a chip (SoC) tool interoperability
Staff Size 210 270 360 800 Staff Costs $90 M $120 M $160 M $360 M

Mo0nolithic Integration

Less area/volume and therefore compactness Less power consumption Les testing requirements at system level Higher reliability, mainly due to improved on-chip interconnects Higher speed, due to significantly reduced interconnection length. Significant cost savings.

Integrated Circuits

Digital logic is implemented using transistors in integrated circuits containing many gates.
small-scale integrated circuits (SSI) contain 10 gates or less medium-scale integrated circuits (MSI) contain 10-100 gates large-scale integrated circuits (LSI) contain up to 104 gates very large-scale integrated circuits (VLSI) contain >104 gates

Improvements in manufacturing lead to ever smaller transistors allowing more per chip.
>107 gates/chip now possible; doubles every 18 months or so

Variety of logic families

TTL - transistor-transistor logic CMOS - complementary metal-oxide semiconductor ECL - emitter-coupled logic GaAs - gallium arsenide

What are shown on previous diagrams cover only the so called front-end processing - fabrication steps that go towards forming the devices and inter-connections between these devices to produce the functioning IC's. The end result are wafers each containing a regular array of the same IC chip or die. The wafer then has to be tested and the chips diced up and the good chips mounted and wire-bonded in different types of IC package and tested again before being shipped out.

From Howe, Sodini: Microelectronics:An Integrated Approach, Prentice Hall

Moores Law

Gordon E. Moore - Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation 1965 - observed trends in industry - # of transistors on ICs vs. release dates:

Noticed number of transistors doubling with release of each new IC generation release dates (separate generations) were all 18-24 months apart

Moores Law:

The number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every 18 months

The level of integration of silicon technology as measured in terms of number of devices per IC This comes about in two ways size reduction of the individual devices and increase in the chip or dice size As an indication of size reduction, it is interesting to note that feature size was measured in mils (1/1000 inch, 1 mil = 25 mm) up to early 1970s, whereas now all features are measured in mms (1 mm = 10-6 m or 10-4 cm) Semiconductor industry has followed this prediction with surprising accuracy

Moores Law
In 1965, Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors that can be integrated on a die would double every 18 to 14 months i.e., grow exponentially with time Amazing visionary million transistor/chip barrier was crossed in the 1980s. 2300 transistors, 1 MHz clock (Intel 4004) - 1971 42 Million, 2 GHz clock (Intel P4) - 2001 140 Million transistor (HP PA-8500)

Source: Intel web page (

Moores Law

From Intels 4040 (2300 transistors) to Pentium II (7,500,000 transistors) and beyond

Relative sizes of ICs in graph

Ever since the invention of integrated circuit, the smallest feature size has been reducing every year. Currently (2002) the smallest feature size is about 0.13 micron. At the same time the number transistors per chip is increasing due to feature size reduction and increase in chip area. Classic example is the case of memory chips: Gordon Moore of Intel in early 1970s found that: density (bits per chip) growing at the rate of four times in 3 to 4 years - often referred to as Moores Law. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, data density has doubled approximately every 18 months current definition of Moores Law.

Limits of Moores Law?

Growth expected until 30 nm gate length (currently: 180 nm) size halved every 18 mos. - reached in
2001 + 1.5 log2((180/30)2) = 2009

what then? Paradigm shift needed in fabrication process

Technological Background of the Moores Law

To accommodate this change, the size of the silicon wafers on which the integrated circuits are fabricated have also increased by a very significant factor from the 2 and 3 in diameter wafers to the 8 in (200 mm) and 12 in (300 mm) diameter wafers The latest catch phrase in semiconductor technology (as well as in other material science) is nanotechnology usually referring to GaAs devices based on quantum mechanical phenomena These devices have feature size (such as film thickness, line width etc) measured in nanometres or 10-9 metres

Recurring Costs
cost of die + cost of die test + cost of packaging variable cost = --------------------------------------------------------------final test yield cost of wafer cost of die = ----------------------------------dies per wafer die yield

(wafer diameter/2)2 wafer diameter dies per wafer = ---------------------------------- -------------------------die area 2 die area

die yield

= (1 + (defects per unit area die area)/)-

Yield Example


wafer size of 12 inches, die size of 2.5 cm2, 1 defects/cm2, = 3 (measure of manufacturing process complexity) 252 dies/wafer (remember, wafers round & dies square) die yield of 16% 252 x 16% = only 40 dies/wafer die yield !

Die cost is strong function of die area

proportional to the third or fourth power of the die area

Intel 4004 Microprocessor

Intel Pentium (IV) Microprocessor

Die Size Growth

Die size grows by 14% to satisfy Moores Law

Die size (mm)

10 8080 8008 4004 1 1970 1980 8086 8085 286

P6 486 Pentium proc 386

~7% growth per year ~2X growth in 10 years

Courtesy, Intel

1990 Year



Clock Frequency
Lead microprocessors frequency doubles every 2 years
10000 1000 Frequency (Mhz) 100 486

2X every 2 years
P6 Pentium proc



8086 286



8008 4004 1980 1990 Year

Courtesy, Intel



Examples of Cost Metrics (1994)

Chip 386DX 486DX2 Metal layers 2 3 Line width 0.90 0.80 Wafer cost $900 $1200 Defects/ Area cm2 (mm2) 1.0 1.0 43 81 Dies/ Yield wafer 360 181 71% 54% Die cost $4 $12

PowerPC 601
HP PA 7100 DEC Alpha Super SPARC Pentium

3 3 3 3

0.80 0.70 0.70 0.80

$1300 $1500 $1700 $1500

1.0 1.2 1.6 1.5

196 234 256 296

66 53 48 40



19% $149 13% $272 9% $417


Very Large Scale Integration

design/manufacturing of extremely small, complex circuitry using modified semiconductor material integrated circuit (IC) may contain millions of transistors, each a few mm in size applications wide ranging: most electronic logic devices

Origins of VLSI

Much development motivated by WWII need for improved electronics, especially for radar 1940 - Russell Ohl (Bell Laboratories) - first pn junction 1948 - Shockley, Bardeen, Brattain (Bell Laboratories) first transistor 1956 Nobel Physics Prize Late 1950s - purification of Si advances to acceptable levels for use in electronics 1958 - Seymour Cray (Control Data Corporation) - first transistorized computer - CDC 1604

Origins of VLSI (Cont.)

1959 - Jack St. Claire Kilby (Texas Instruments) - first integrated circuit - 10 components on 9 mm2 1959 - Robert Norton Noyce (founder, Fairchild Semiconductor) - improved integrated circuit 1968 - Noyce, Gordon E. Moore found Intel 1971 - Ted Hoff (Intel) - first microprocessor (4004) 2300 transistors on 9 mm2 Since then - continued improvement in technology has allowed for increased performance as predicted by Moores Law

Three Dimensional VLSI

The fabrication of a single integrated circuit whose functional parts (transistors, etc) extend in three dimensions The vertical orientation of several bare integrated circuits in a single package

Advantages of 3D VLSI

Speed - the time required for a signal to travel between the functional circuit blocks in a system (delay) reduced. Delay depends on resistance/capacitance of interconnections resistance proportional to interconnection length

Advantages of 3D VLSI

Noise - unwanted disturbances on a useful signal reflection noise (varying impedance along interconnect) crosstalk noise (interference between interconnects) electromagnetic interference (EMI) (caused by current in pins) 3D chips fewer, shorter interconnects fewer pins

Advantages of 3D VLSI

Power consumption power used charging an interconnect capacitance P = fCV2 power dissipated through resistive material P = V2/R capacitance/resistance proportional to length reduced interconnect lengths will reduce power

Advantages of 3D VLSI

Interconnect capacity (connectivity) more connections between chips increased functionality, ease of design

Advantages of 3D VLSI

Printed circuit board size/weight planar size of PCB reduced with negligible IC height increase weight reduction due to more circuitry per package/smaller PCBs estimated 40-50 times reduction in size/weight

3D VLSI - Challenges and Solutions

Challenge: Thermal management smaller packages increased circuit density increased power density Solutions: circuit layout (design stage)
high power sections uniformly distributed

advancement in cooling techniques (heat pipes)

Influential Participants - Industry

Mitsubishi, TI, Intel, CTS Microelectronics, Hitachi, Irvine Sensors, others... high density memories AT&T high density multiprocessor Many other applications/participants

Three Dimensional VLSI

Moores Law approaching physical limit Increased performance expected by market Paradigm shift needed - 3D VLSI
many advantages over 2D VLSI economic limitations of fabrication overhaul will be overcome by market demand

Three Dimensional VLSI may be the savior of Moores Law