Samsung has finally nailed a much-anticipated chip manufacturing technique that will help phones perform faster and keep their batteries juiced for longer. The company is now building 7-nanometer chips using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) technology -- a process which has been in the pipeline for years but has faced all kinds of challenges in real-world roll-out.
Chips are manufactured by using light to project patterns of circuitry onto silicon wafers. The next generation of chips, however, have features that are smaller than the wavelength of a traditional light -- it's a fat Sharpie where a thin ballpoint is needed, and manufacturers have tried various ways to get around this. Samsung's existing 10nm and 14nm chips, for example, are exposed to 193nm wavelength light many, many times in a method called multi-patterning. Essentially, the same section of the die is "written" to several times.
Researchers have known for a long time that EUV, which has a wavelength of 13.5nm, is the answer, but machines can be even more expensive, and technological issues have delayed high-volume production. According to Samsung, two major challenges it's faced have been the power of the light source and the volume of wafers that could be processed every day. But it's figured that out, and now it's getting set to commercialize chips that have a 40 percent smaller surface area compared to the company's previous 10-nanometer tech, while reducing power consumption by 50 percent or boosting performance by 20 percent.
Samsung is already the world's biggest vendor of memory chips, but its innovation here gives it a massive leap ahead of the competition, not least because it's the company responsible for keeping Moore's Law going. The law indicates a doubling of transistors (and therefore processing power) for a given chip every two years, but it's been slowing down in recent times. Moore's Law is important if we want to keep seeing smarter, faster tech, and since Samsung supplies a whole range of other companies with its tech, it won't be long before you're enjoying exactly that.