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Sunburned chips

Chip firms prove 10GHz, 0.03u chips are possible

Using a technology unveiled yesterday, processors that can run at up to 10GHz could be made by 2006. An industry consortium, including major players Intel, AMD and Motorola, has proved extreme ultraviolet light can be used to print circuits as thin as 0.03 microns.

The EUV Industry Consortium unveiled a prototype machine yesterday that uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light to print circuits on to microchips, in a method similar to photography.

Current technology will let chip makers print circuits down to 0.10 micron, about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. Using EUV technology, the consortium believes it can bring that down to 0.03 microns. The group also expects that the processors will reach speeds of up to 10GHz by 2006, Intel said.

The move is a milestone for processor manufacturing, according to one analyst. "They've been working on this for about five years now, and when they started a lot of people thought this would never work," said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst of Californian research firm The Linley Group. "At this point, they've shown that not only can they make it work, they've made it work within an economic environment similar to that of today's processors."

Although the key intellectual problems have all been solved at this point, the research isn't over, Gwennap said. "There's still a significant amount of work to do to turn this prototype into something that's used around the world," he added.

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