IBM researchers have found a way to extend a key chip manufacturing process that they expect will extend the life of current chip fabrication processes by up to seven years.
This should enable chip makers to continue producing faster and more complex chips.
For decades, Moore's Law has accurately predicted how the semiconductor industry has continually shrunk circuits to drive increases in the performance and function of chips. But as chips approach the fundamental scale limits of individual atoms and molecules, this trend of relentless improvement is under threat.
IBM scientists have created the smallest high-quality line patterns ever made, using deep ultraviolet (DUV, 193-nanometre) optical lithography - a technology used to "print" photographs of circuits on chips.
The result is that chips can be manufactured using components that are just 29.9 nanometres in size - less than one-third the size of the 90-nanometre components now in mass production and the 32 nanometres that industry consensus had held as the limit for optical lithography techniques.