Intel’s "angstrom era" will depend on advanced metrology

August 2, 2021
Joe Cestari

Intel has just made some fascinating announcements regarding its process technologies, revealing a series of interesting details about what its innovation roadmap, looking towards 2025 and beyond.

The company has framed this as ushering in the "angstrom era", with devices and materials now processed at the atomic level – but what does this really mean?

First remembering that one angstrom (1Å) is a unit of measurement that equals 0.1nm, we know that a silicon atom measures 1.92Å. Intel has specified a new process node that it calls "Intel 20A", which is based upon the critical dimension limits of 20Å. That means that in the 20A process, a 20Å layer can contain as few as 11 silicon atoms. It’s clear that Intel’s claim to be working "at the atomic level" is not mere hype or exaggeration – it’s genuinely going to represent an industry advancement!

Intel announced two new technologies that will enable the angstrom era: RibbonFET, its first new transistor architecture since 2011, and PowerVia, which it describes as an "industry-first" new backside power delivery method.

As part of the new Intel 20A process node, RibbonFET is Intel's implementation of a gate-all-around transistor. This technology delivers faster transistor switching speeds, while still achieving the same drive current as multiple fins, but with a smaller footprint. 

PowerVia optimizes signal transmission by removing the need for power routing on the front side of the wafer and by providing optimized signal routing, while reducing droop and noise.

The vision is bold, but manufacturing complex 3D structures in the “angstrom era” will be no simple feat. It will depend heavily on subtractive and additive atomic level processes – atomic level deposition (ALD) and atomic level etch (ALE).  

Advanced metrology is essential for successful and consistent ALD and ALE. This is precisely why we have developed Atonarp's Aston platform, offering real-time, in-situ metrology capabilities for fabs. The Aston system is ideally suited for observing and controlling ALE and ALD processes and achieving this level of advanced manufacturing precision.

Intel says it expects 20A to ramp up in 2024, which is right around the corner in the complex world of semiconductor fabs. We’re excited to see how the angstrom era unfolds – and to ensure advanced metrology plays a key role in helping transform that vision into reality.


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