Samsung promises 20nm chips before 2012

Samsung Semiconductor has announced its intention to start producing sample quantities of chips based on a 20nm HKMG production process in the second half of this year, promising impressive gains in performance and efficiency.

In an announcement from Samsung's Ana Hunter, the company confirmed that it would be building 20nm chips by the second half of the year - and claimed that the process shrink will bring major improvements.

A drop from the current 32nm and 28nm fabrication nodes used by the company will see the high-k metal gate (HKMG) technology, used to replace the traditional silicon dioxide gate dielectric in smaller nodes to reduce current leakage, introduced with the 32nm process size employed to allow the distance between components to shrink still further.

Coupled with a fifth-generation strained silicon technology and an innovative cell-level scaling technology that allows the elimination of a metal layer, Samsung promises that the new node size will result in a 30 per cent performance improvement over existing 28nm chips at the same standby current.

"Our focus for this process technology generation is to maintain the same increases in performance, power efficiency, and density that we’ve seen moving from 45nm to 32/28nm with the addition of HKMG," claimed Hunter. "Our 20nm technology will be a full node shrink from 28nm, enabling the ~50 per cent area scaling that the industry has come to expect with each technology generation."

While it will likely be a while before commercial quantities of 20nm chips are produced, they do outline the future of Samsung's mobile chip efforts: system-on-chip designs like the company's Exynos range, along with its recently announced Ultra-Wide Mobile DRAM technology, are going to get an impressive performance boost in the coming year.