First 3D Nanotube and RRAM ICs Come Out of Foundry

Max Shulaker draws spontaneous applause from the audience at DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative Summit.

Here’s something you don’t see very often at government-sponsored technology meetings—spontaneous applause. It happened at DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative Summit this week when MIT assistant professor Max Shulaker held up a silicon wafer that is the first step in proving DARPA’s plan to turn a trailing edge foundry into something that can produce chips that can compete—even in a limited sense—with the world’s leading edge foundries.

“This wafer was made just last Friday… and it’s the first monolithic 3D IC ever fabricated within a foundry,” he told the crowd of several hundred engineers Tuesday in Detroit. On the wafer were multiple chips made of a layer of CMOS carbon nanotube transistors and a layer of RRAM memory cells built atop one another and linked together vertically with a dense array of connectors called vias. The idea behind the DARPA-funded project, called 3DSoC, is that chips made with multiple layers of both would have a 50-fold performance advantage over today’s 7-nanometer chips. That’s especially ambitious given that the lithographic process the new chips are based on (the 90-nanometer node) was last cutting-edge back in 2004.

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