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Very large-scale integration (VLSI) is the process of creating an integrated circuit (IC) by combining millions of MOS transistors onto a single chip. VLSI began in the 1970s when MOS integrated circuit chips were widely adopted, enabling complex semiconductor and telecommunication technologies to be developed. The microprocessor and memory chips are VLSI devices. Before the introduction of VLSI technology, most ICs had a limited set of functions they could perform. An electronic circuit might consist of a CPU, ROM, RAM and other glue logic. VLSI lets IC designers add all of these into one chip.
The history of the transistor dates to the 1920s when several inventors attempted devices that were intended to control current in solid-state diodes and convert them into triodes. Success came after World War II, when the use of silicon and germanium crystals as radar detectors led to improvements in fabrication and theory. Scientists who had worked on radar returned to solid-state device development. With the invention of the first transistor at Bell Labs in 1947, the field of electronics shifted from vacuum tubes to solid-state devices.
With the small transistor at their hands, electrical engineers of the 1950s saw the possibilities of constructing far more advanced circuits. However, as the complexity of circuits grew, problems arose.One problem was the size of the circuit. A complex circuit like a computer was dependent on speed. If the components were large, the wires interconnecting them must be long. The electric signals took time to go through the circuit, thus slowing the computer.
The invention of the integrated circuit by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce solved this problem by making all the components and the chip out of the same block (monolith) of semiconductor material. The circuits could be made smaller, and the manufacturing process could be automated. This led to the idea of integrating all components on a single-crystal silicon wafer, which led to small-scale integration (SSI) in the early 1960s, and then medium-scale integration (MSI) in the late 1960s.
Very large-scale integration was made possible with the wide adoption of the MOS transistor, originally invented by Mohamed M. Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959.Atalla first proposed the concept of the MOS integrated circuit chip in 1960, followed by Kahng in 1961, both noting that the MOS transistor's ease of fabrication made it useful for integrated circuits. General Microelectronics introduced the first commercial MOS integrated circuit in 1964. In the early 1970s, MOS integrated circuit technology allowed the integration of more than 10,000 transistors in a single chip. This paved the way for VLSI in the 1970s and 1980s, with tens of thousands of MOS transistors on a single chip (later hundreds of thousands, then millions, and now billions).
The first semiconductor chips held two transistors each. Subsequent advances added more transistors, and as a consequence, more individual functions or systems were integrated over time. The first integrated circuits held only a few devices, perhaps as many as ten diodes, transistors, resistors and capacitors, making it possible to fabricate one or more logic gates on a single device. Now known retrospectively as small-scale integration (SSI), improvements in technique led to devices with hundreds of logic gates, known as medium-scale integration (MSI). Further improvements led to large-scale integration (LSI), i.e. systems with at least a thousand logic gates. Current technology has moved far past this mark and today's microprocessors have many millions of gates and billions of individual transistors.
At one time, there was an effort to name and calibrate various levels of large-scale integration above VLSI. Terms like ultra-large-scale integration (ULSI) were used. But the huge number of gates and transistors available on common devices has rendered such fine distinctions moot. Terms suggesting greater than VLSI levels of integration are no longer in widespread use.
In 2008, billion-transistor processors became commercially available. This became more commonplace as semiconductor fabrication advanced from the then-current generation of 65 nm processes. Current designs, unlike the earliest devices, use extensive design automation and automated logic synthesis to lay out the transistors, enabling higher levels of complexity in the resulting logic functionality. Certain high-performance logic blocks like the SRAM (static random-access memory) cell, are still designed by hand to ensure the highest efficiency.
Structured VLSI design is a modular methodology originated by Carver Mead and Lynn Conway for saving microchip area by minimizing the interconnect fabrics area. This is obtained by repetitive arrangement of rectangular macro blocks which can be interconnected using wiring by abutment. An example is partitioning the layout of an adder into a row of equal bit slices cells. In complex designs this structuring may be achieved by hierarchical nesting.
Structured VLSI design had been popular in the early 1980s, but lost its popularity later[ citation needed ] because of the advent of placement and routing tools wasting a lot of area by routing, which is tolerated because of the progress of Moore's Law. When introducing the hardware description language KARL in the mid' 1970s, Reiner Hartenstein coined the term "structured VLSI design" (originally as "structured LSI design"), echoing Edsger Dijkstra's structured programming approach by procedure nesting to avoid chaotic spaghetti-structured program
As microprocessors become more complex due to technology scaling, microprocessor designers have encountered several challenges which force them to think beyond the design plane, and look ahead to post-silicon:
Processor design is the design engineering task of creating a processor, a key component of computer hardware. It is a subfield of computer engineering and electronics engineering (fabrication). The design process involves choosing an instruction set and a certain execution paradigm and results in a microarchitecture, which might be described in e.g. VHDL or Verilog. For microprocessor design, this description is then manufactured employing some of the various semiconductor device fabrication processes, resulting in a die which is bonded onto a chip carrier. This chip carrier is then soldered onto, or inserted into a socket on, a printed circuit board (PCB).
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny MOS transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, faster, and less expensive than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.
Semiconductor device fabrication is the process used to manufacture semiconductor devices, typically the metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) devices used in the integrated circuit (IC) chips that are present in everyday electrical and electronic devices. It is a multiple-step sequence of photolithographic and chemical processing steps during which electronic circuits are gradually created on a wafer made of pure semiconducting material. Silicon is almost always used, but various compound semiconductors are used for specialized applications.
The metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET, MOS-FET, or MOS FET), also known as the metal–oxide–silicon transistor (MOS transistor, or MOS), is a type of insulated-gate field-effect transistor (IGFET) that is fabricated by the controlled oxidation of a semiconductor, typically silicon. The voltage of the covered gate determines the electrical conductivity of the device; this ability to change conductivity with the amount of applied voltage can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals. The MOSFET was invented by Egyptian engineer Mohamed M. Atalla and Korean engineer Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in November 1959. It is the basic building block of modern electronics, and the most frequently manufactured device in history, with an estimated total of 13 sextillion (1.3 × 1022) MOSFETs manufactured between 1960 and 2018.
Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS), also known as complementary-symmetry metal–oxide–semiconductor (COS-MOS), is a type of MOSFET fabrication process that uses complementary and symmetrical pairs of p-type and n-type MOSFETs for logic functions. CMOS technology is used for constructing integrated circuit (IC) chips, including microprocessors, microcontrollers, memory chips, and other digital logic circuits. CMOS technology is also used for analog circuits such as image sensors, data converters, RF circuits, and highly integrated transceivers for many types of communication.
The Intel 4004 is a 4-bit central processing unit (CPU) released by Intel Corporation in 1971. It was the first commercially available microprocessor, and the first in a long line of Intel CPUs. The chip design, implemented with the MOS silicon gate technology, started in April 1970, and was created by Federico Faggin who led the project from beginning to completion in 1971. Marcian Hoff formulated and led the architectural proposal in 1969, and Masatoshi Shima contributed to the architecture and later to the logic design. The first commercial sale of the fully operational 4004 occurred in March 1971 to Busicom Corp. of Japan for its 141-PF electronic calculator, for which it was originally designed and built as a custom chip.
An application-specific integrated circuit is an integrated circuit (IC) chip customized for a particular use, rather than intended for general-purpose use. For example, a chip designed to run in a digital voice recorder or a high-efficiency bitcoin miner is an ASIC. Application-specific standard product (ASSP) chips are intermediate between ASICs and industry standard integrated circuits like the 7400 series or the 4000 series. ASIC chips are typically fabricated using metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) technology, as MOS integrated circuit chips.
Electronic design automation (EDA), also referred to as electronic computer-aided design (ECAD), is a category of software tools for designing electronic systems such as integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. The tools work together in a design flow that chip designers use to design and analyze entire semiconductor chips. Since a modern semiconductor chip can have billions of components, EDA tools are essential for their design.
Bipolar CMOS (BiCMOS) is a semiconductor technology that integrates two formerly separate semiconductor technologies, those of the bipolar junction transistor and the CMOS gate, in a single integrated circuit device.
In computer engineering, a logic family may refer to one of two related concepts. A logic family of monolithic digital integrated circuit devices is a group of electronic logic gates constructed using one of several different designs, usually with compatible logic levels and power supply characteristics within a family. Many logic families were produced as individual components, each containing one or a few related basic logical functions, which could be used as "building-blocks" to create systems or as so-called "glue" to interconnect more complex integrated circuits. A "logic family" may also refer to a set of techniques used to implement logic within VLSI integrated circuits such as central processors, memories, or other complex functions. Some such logic families use static techniques to minimize design complexity. Other such logic families, such as domino logic, use clocked dynamic techniques to minimize size, power consumption and delay.
Miniaturization is the trend to manufacture ever smaller mechanical, optical and electronic products and devices. Examples include miniaturization of mobile phones, computers and vehicle engine downsizing. In electronics, the exponential scaling and miniaturization of silicon MOSFETs leads to the average number of transistors on an integrated circuit chip doubling every two years, an observation known as Moore's law. This leads to MOS integrated circuits such as microprocessors and memory chips being built with increasing transistor density, faster performance, and lower power consumption, enabling the miniaturization of electronic devices.
The planar process is a manufacturing process used in the semiconductor industry to build individual components of a transistor, and in turn, connect those transistors together. It is the primary process by which silicon integrated circuit chips are built. The process utilizes the surface passivation and thermal oxidation methods.
In integrated circuits, depletion-load NMOS is a form of digital logic family that uses only a single power supply voltage, unlike earlier nMOS logic families that needed more than one different power supply voltage. Although manufacturing these integrated circuits required additional processing steps, improved switching speed and the elimination of the extra power supply made this logic family the preferred choice for many microprocessors and other logic elements.
The transistor count is the number of transistors on an integrated circuit (IC). It typically refers to the number of MOSFETs on an IC chip, as all modern ICs use MOSFETs. It is the most common measure of IC complexity. The rate at which MOS transistor counts have increased generally follows Moore's law, which observed that the transistor count doubles approximately every two years.
In electronics, a self-aligned gate is a transistor manufacturing feature whereby a refractory gate electrode region of a MOSFET is used as a mask for the doping of the source and drain regions. This technique ensures that the gate will slightly overlap the edges of the source and drain.
P-type metal-oxide-semiconductor logic uses p-channel (+) metal-oxide-semiconductor field effect transistors (MOSFETs) to implement logic gates and other digital circuits. PMOS transistors operate by creating an inversion layer in an n-type transistor body. This inversion layer, called the p-channel, can conduct holes between p-type "source" and "drain" terminals.
A three-dimensional integrated circuit is a MOS integrated circuit (IC) manufactured by stacking silicon wafers or dies and interconnecting them vertically using, for instance, through-silicon vias (TSVs) or Cu-Cu connections, so that they behave as a single device to achieve performance improvements at reduced power and smaller footprint than conventional two dimensional processes. The 3D IC is one of several 3D integration schemes that exploit the z-direction to achieve electrical performance benefits, in microelectronics and nanoelectronics.
In semiconductor manufacturing, a process corner is an example of a design-of-experiments (DoE) technique that refers to a variation of fabrication parameters used in applying an integrated circuit design to a semiconductor wafer. Process corners represent the extremes of these parameter variations within which a circuit that has been etched onto the wafer must function correctly. A circuit running on devices fabricated at these process corners may run slower or faster than specified and at lower or higher temperatures and voltages, but if the circuit does not function at all at any of these process extremes the design is considered to have inadequate design margin.
This article details the history of electronic engineering. Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (1972) defines electronics as "The science and technology of the conduction of electricity in a vacuum, a gas, or a semiconductor, and devices based thereon".