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Surprising Science

Next Generation Microchips Are Nano

An extreme-ultraviolet microscope for creating the next generation of microchips has been created by scientists in collaboration with leading semiconductor manufacturers.

What’s the Latest Development?

Next generation microchips will be produced using nanotechnology developed recently at U.S. Department of Energy labs at the University of California, Berkeley. In collaboration with chip manufacturers, scientists have developed a new microscope called SHARP (Semiconductor High-NA Actinic Reticle Review Project) which uses extreme-ultraviolet light for photolithography, the central process in the creation of microchips. The microscope will use light wavelengths 40 times narrower than visible light. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Moore’s law, which states that the number of transistors that can be placed on a microchip doubles every year and a half, explains why technology continues to make rapid advances while also decreasing in price. But how long can we enjoy the exponential expansion of computing power until engineers hit some fundamental barriers, like the immutable size of an atom? That largely depends on how far scientists can push new nanotechnologies which use ever-shorter wavelengths of light in the creation of computer chips.

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