Special focus: chip design
Chip designers are struggling with aligning the critical dimensions of each new manufacturing process with an ever-smaller fraction of the wavelength of the light used to define them.
Also, major chip foundries are ramping up production on 28nm processes - making electronic devices with features so small they are stretching the capabilities of the equipment used to draw them to breaking point.
Chipmakers are having to apply an increasingly mindboggling array of optical trickery. E&T monitors this trend.
Selected chip-design news
Microprocessor-design company ARM has decided to move to an open-source compiler for the latest release of its software development tools, moving away from its own technology.
Raytheon UK has opened the UK’s first fab able to make chips from the ultrahard material silicon carbide instead of standard silicon, thus aiming to provide devices that can withstand the heat inside jet engines and other harsh environments.
Intel's weak outlook for fourth-quarter revenue and margins dispelled lingering hopes for a revival in PC demand.
Amazon, the world's largest Internet retailer, is in advanced talks to buy the mobile chip business of Texas Instruments.
Silicon chips that exploit the properties of quantum physics could be common components in laptops and smartphones within a few years, say scientists.
ARM beat market expectations for the second quarter after demand for its low-power chips in smartphones outstripped the industry.
Intel, Samsung Electronics and TSMC have agreed to start working on a move to use 450mm wafers, with the transition scheduled to start in 2012.
IBM, working with its semiconductor production partners, claims to have produced wafers on an prototype 32nm process that use a high-k/metal-gate stack.
The Open SystemC Initiative (OSCI) is working to have the final version of the second major release of the transaction-level modelling (TLM) standard ready in time for the Design Automation Conference (DAC) in June.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created models to determine whether it is worth pursuing carbon nanotubes as replacements for copper wiring in chip designs.
IBM researchers have stumbled across a possible solution to one of the biggest obstacles to the use of graphene as a substitute for silicon in future electronic devices. They have developed a way to suppress the noise that would otherwise render nanoscale graphene transistors useless.
Selected chip-design features
During the 1990s, Scotland’s Silicon Glen looked as though it could rival other world centres for chipmaking. It could not compete with California’s Silicon Valley itself but the country looked an attractive choice to a number of Far Eastern technology companies who promised to build and expand plants there.
Wide-area network optimisers use smart ways to gain more value from WAN links through new ICs.
The world's largest chipmakers are gambling heavily on manufacturing in an attempt to take advantage of their market muscle.
We're all fed-up with watching the 'Please wait' icon as our data shunts backwards and forwards from memory to processor... but could the waiting time be reduced now that memory technology innovation is providing the key to a new, more energy-efficient way of handling data?
The highly absorbent smartphone is gaining a controlling interest in how the electronics industry is evolving, as technology developed for it seeps increasingly into other markets.
Processors are working too hard and draining the battery too fast, so could they learn some lessons in energy conservation from the sagacious sloth?
Chipmakers want to cut costs by moving to pizza-sized wafers, but could it prove to be an expensive mistake?
The pressure to deliver longer battery life in mobile handsets and tablets is forcing chipmakers to put spare processor cores onto their devices with the intention of using their signature, power-hungry cores only on an occasional basis.
Depositing the features on semiconductors is no easy task, and existing tools have reached their limit, says E&T.
How can you get chips onto the market when you don't have an iPhone budget?
Increasing the regularity of chip designs may reduce problems in manufacturing.
At the beginning of October, a group of chipmakers and tools suppliers formed a consortium to try to take the technology of silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chips out of the realm of high-end processors into the mainstream.
Sani Nassif, the man in charge of tools and technologies at IBM Microelectronics, has a way of putting into perspective the looming problem for chip designers.
Cost pressures are forcing designers to put more analogue circuitry onto bleeding-edge silicon.
Circuit designers are turning into digital techniques to improve analogue performance on submicron processes.
Modelling the mind may provide a radical new direction in computer design.
Chipmakers are reaching the limits with electronic circuits - the only way is up.
Developers have to look at new ways of coding to take advantage of multicore processing.
Moore's Law has become practically synonymous with chipmaking: but does it square with reality?
Only months after 45nm started rolling, the foundries are vying for control of the 32nm generation.
Modelling hardware using virtual platforms is becoming mainstream - so now attention is turning to the speed of simulation.
"The 1950s saw the first big wave of 3D films, but the novelty wore off. Sixty years later, 3D may be back to stay as the technology goes mainstream."
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