For decades, integrated circuits have been confined to a veneer on semiconductor chips, with transistors and wiring devices packed ever more densely within this thin sheet. As in-plane shrinkage has become more challenging, however, electronics companies are looking to stack multiple circuit layers vertically to boost speed and functionality, while reducing power consumption and size.
"The performance of a system is not controlled by the individual components, but by the way that you can assemble these different components," said Paolo Gargini, head of the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems, an IEEE Standards Association Industry Connections program that has supplanted the more device-focused semiconductor roadmap. Over time, stacking will give way to true monolithic growth of three-dimensional (3D) chips for some applications, like memory.
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