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October 28th, 2007
Over the last four decades, computer chips have found their way into virtually every electronic device in the world. During that time they have become smaller, cheaper and more powerful, but, for a team of European researchers, there is still plenty of scope to push back the limits of miniaturisation.
The first generation of CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) chips were based on a design process with lithographic features defining regions inside the transistors of 10 micrometres or more. The chips in most products in use today have features more than a hundred times smaller - just 65 nanometres (nm) or 90nm, approximately 1,000 times less than the width of a human hair. That may be small, but in the competitive semiconductor industry, where size is of high importance, it is not small enough.
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