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Manufacturing of the Computer Chip

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The computer chip has been a key element in the realization of modern technological transformations. Integration of computer systems in almost all of people’s day-to-day activities necessitates the production of greater volumes of chips. The invention of the transistor laid the foundation for the development of the computer chip. In comparison to the vacuum tube, the transistor was less bulky and thus it was easy to embed several transistors in a circuit. In addition, vacuum tubes had the drawback of a short life in circuits due to their high tendency to burn out quickly. However, the production and use of transistors in circuits proved to be a complex and expensive process and thus encouraged research on technologies that would facilitate the use of smaller, but effective electric circuits. The idea of a silicon chip largely originated form a scientist known as Geoffrey Drummer. Geoffrey’ concepts regarding the embedment of an electronic circuit in a silicon chip formed the basis of the ideas that Jack Kilby used to create the first integrated circuit and thus the silicon chip. Since Jack’s breakthrough, the process of producing the silicon chip has undergone numerous transformations with the key objective being the creation of miniature, but powerful computer chips.

Manufacturing Process

Key components of a computer chip are transistors and metal wires. Manufacturers use these components to create complex electric circuits that give the computer chip its abilities and capacity to perform diverse and intricate operations. The most commonly used transistor in the manufacture of computer chips is the complementary metal oxide (CMOS) transistor. Apart from its high performance in the switching of digital circuits, manufacturers prefer the CMOS transistor due to its higher economic viability in comparison to other types of transistor. The transistor acts as a switch by controlling the flow of electrons at different voltages. Manufacturers use a process known as batch fabrication to obtain the transistors and wires used to produce computer chips (Henderson, 2003). Batch fabrication minimizes the costs involved in the production of large quantities of transistors thus providing manufacturers with greater economies of scale as evident by the fact that computer chips are relatively inexpensive considering their complex functions. Silicon, which is naturally available in abundance as sand, is the primary material in the production of computer chips. Once manufacturers obtain the material, it undergoes purification to eliminate defects in the process of growing cylindrical crystals that form the substrate for computer chips.

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Manufacturers use photo-masks of transistors and wires created by chip designers to reproduce the physical representation of transistors and wires on the substrate. Glass and chrome are the key elements in a photo-mask. These elements create a stencil-like structure with different regions, glass and chrome that allow or prohibit the penetration of light respectively. Another important function of photo-masks is the provision of a structure that allows controlled addition of elements that influence the charge-carrying characteristics of transistors. The process of fabricating a transistor gate and conductors between transistors entails the transfer of patterns defined in the photo-masks to a light-sensitive polymer and etching of the polymer film (Bakshi, 2009). Afterwards, manufacturers remove the light-sensitive polymer to obtain fully fabricated chips, which contain the exposed and hardened photo-resist and Silicon warfare.

Lithography is comparable to photography in the sense that both processes use light as a means of transferring images. Variation in the wavelength of light used in Lithography determines the number of transistors that a single silicon wafer can carry. In this regard, manufacturers prefer using light of shorter wavelength to pack more transistors in a chip, which guarantees great performance in microprocessors. Once the chips are ready, manufacturers embark on the process of technology scaling to improve the chips’ performance. The performance of computer chips mainly depends on the switching-time for transistors. Chip miniaturization helps in reducing the wiring delays and length of the gate in transistors.

Technology scaling, which help in the packaging of great computing power on increasingly small chips, has been a key factor in the development of various technology generations in the field of chip manufacturing. Improvements in Lithography have contributed to the continuous improvement of microprocessors as evident by the fact that a Pentium 4 processor had greater performance than a Pentium 3 processor. The diversity in performance between two generations of microprocessors is mainly because a Pentium 4 processor has about double the number of transistors packaged in a Pentium 3 processor. Research on the use of deep ultraviolet light in the manufacturing of computer chips indicates that as the wavelength of light used in Lithography reduces, glass lenses used in photo-masking increasingly absorbs the light rather than focusing it. In this regard, the transfer of the representation of transistors and wires into a silicon substrate becomes ineffective. Thus, to utilize the benefits of ultraviolet Lithography, manufacturers will need to substitute glass lenses with mirrors that are highly effective in focusing light.

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Evidence shows that the use of EUVL in chip manufacturing will allow the production of microprocessor with clock speeds as high as 12 gigahertz. Manufactures can attain an increasingly high level of reflection of light by using a combination of concave and convex mirrors. Coating these mirrors with molybdenum and silicon guarantees a significantly low percentage of light absorption and thus enhanced creation of circuit patterns in chips. EUVL technology will enable the packaging of billions of transistors in an increasingly small chip thus creating microprocessors with immensely high performance.

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