TSMC has reported an advancement in the 1-nanometer (nm) semiconductor manufacturing process, going one step ahead of Samsung Electronics in competition for micro-fabrication processes.
According to foreign media outlets such as Hexus, research scientists from TSMC, the National Taiwan University (NTU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced a breakthrough in the use of ‘beyond silicon and 2D materials in electronics in a paper published by Nature.
They claim that the research provides a path to electronics manufacturing processes of 1nm and lower, helping break past the limits of current semiconductor technology and materials.
According to the research paper, researchers replaced silicon, a key material of semiconductors, with a 2D material that has low contact resistance and high current delivery capabilities by combining silicon with bismuth (Bi), a semi-metal element.
Currently, TSMC and Samsung Electronics are the only two companies in the world that can mass-produce sub-7-nm semiconductors. Both companies are currently mass-producing 5-nm products.
Semiconductor industry experts have been paying attention to which of the two companies will start mass-producing 3-nm products first. A 3-nm process is known to reduce the chip size by 35 percent compared to a 5-nm process but boost its performance and battery efficiency by 15 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
TSMC is expected to start mass-producing 3-nm products at the end of next year. The Taiwanese semiconductor giant is building a 5-nm production line in Phoenix, Arizona by investing US$12 billion. It recently laid out a plan to additionally build five production lines including a state-of-the-art sub-3-nm line.
Samsung Electronics also announced that it will start mass-producing 3-nm semiconductors next year. However, TSMC took one step ahead of it by announcing a breakthrough in developing 1-nm core technology.
Samsung Electronics still lags far behind its global competitor TSMC in the foundry business. In 2020, TSMC topped the global foundry market with a 54 percent share while Samsung Electronics held 17 percent, less than a third of TSMC, according to market research firm TrendForce.