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7/15/2014 8:25:20 AM

The Business Review: Next step in computer chip research: defy physics

The Business Review

The computer chip manufacturing industry hit a milestone last week, but analyst Jim McGregor said there's still a lot more work to be done to drive down production costs.

The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, New York unveiled a new wafer, a silicon disc on which computer chips are etched, that is much larger than the current industry standard.

A bigger wafer means more chips can be produced at one time, but it's still not cost effective until the chips too can be advanced, said McGregor, the founder and principal analyst of TIRIAS Research, an Arizona research and advisory firm.

In the past, it took researchers an average of 18 to 24 months to develop new computer chip designs to increase production, lower power consumption or improve more performance.

As the wafers have continued to get bigger, however, the technology to make the transistors smaller has slowed, McGregor said. "We've pushed the limits of the technology we have and physics is limiting us on the technology we can come up with."

The key is increasing research in the technology that carves the circuit patterns on the silicon wafers, known in industry terms as lithography.

Albany is at the heart of the research, since the largest semiconductor companies in the world teamed up on next generation chip development at the nanocollege.

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