TSMC expected to announce plans for its 1.4 nm production nodes next month
While scientists are exploring various ways to enable viable ways to manufacture sub-1 nm transistors, the largest foundries of the world are racing it out to see who can release the first angstrom-era production nodes. Even though Intel was first to announce 20A and even 18A nodes scheduled for some time after 2025, these will most likely not feature true sub-2 nm nodes, judging by the naming scheme chosen by Team Blue (Intel 7, for example, is 10 nm). Samsung and TSMC, on the other hand, are constantly one-upping each other. TSMC is expected to begin 2 nm high-volume manufacturing in 2025 along with the introduction of GAAFet transistors, but Samsung already plans to make the jump to GAAFet with its 3 nm nodes later this year. Now TSMC is upping the ante once again, as it prepares an announcement for its 1.4 nm nodes in June.
According to a recent Business Korea report, the preparations for the 1.4 nm nodes will begin with TSMC converting the 3 nm R&D team into one that will start the pathfinding for the most advanced process. More official info on the 1.4 nm nodes could be presented at TSMC’s Technology Symposium scheduled for next month. It will be interesting to see if TSMC can continue to employ GAAFet transistors for the 1.4 nm nodes or try to implement some new technology such as graphene nanomesh. Additionally, TSMC may also improve the EUV lithography process with an upgrade from 0.33 to 0.55 numerical aperture.
Apparently, Intel will be the first to use the higher numerical aperture lithography with the 20A and 18A nodes in 2025. Again, these are not true 2 nm nodes, but Intel is known to at least match the density provided by TSMC’s nodes. The jump from 2 nm to 1.4 nm might not sound too impressive, but we need to keep in mind that the precision needs to increase exponentially, and, at the same time maintain high enough yields. This may not be achievable with GAAFet transistors and TSMC could be forced to explore other solutions. If TSMC is to stick to its current cadence, the 1.4 nm nodes could become operational by 2028.