10 nanometer

In semiconductor fabrication, the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) defines the 10 nanometer (10 nm) node as the MOSFET technology node following the 14 nm node. "10 nm class" denotes chips made using process technologies between 10 and 20 nanometers.

All production "10 nm" processes are based on FinFET (fin field-effect transistor) technology, a type of multi-gate MOSFET technology that is a non-planar evolution of planar silicon CMOS technology. Samsung first started their production of 10 nm-class chips in 2013 for their multi-level cell (MLC) flash memory chips, followed by their SoCs using their 10 nm process in 2016. TSMC began commercial production of 10 nm chips in 2016, and Intel later began production of 10 nm chips in 2018.

Since 2009, however, "node" has become a commercial name for marketing purposes that indicates new generations of process technologies, without any relation to gate length, metal pitch or gate pitch.[1][2][3] For example, GlobalFoundries' 7 nm process is similar to Intel's 10 nm process, thus the conventional notion of a process node has become blurred.[4] TSMC and Samsung's 10 nm processes are somewhere between Intel's 14 nm and 10 nm processes in transistor density. The transistor density (number of transistors per square millimeter) is more important than transistor size, since smaller transistors no longer necessarily mean improved performance, or an increase in the number of transistors.


Egyptian engineer Mohamed Atalla and Korean engineer Dawon Kahng (the original inventors of the MOSFET in 1959)[5] in 1962 demonstrated a device that has a metallic layer with nanometric thickness sandwiched between two semiconducting layers, with the metal forming the base and the semiconductors forming the emitter and collector. They deposited metal layers (the base) on top of single crystal semiconductor substrates (the collector), with the emitter being a crystalline semiconductor piece with a top or a blunt corner pressed against the metallic layer (the point contact). With the low resistance and short transit times in the thin metallic nanolayer base, the devices were capable of high operation frequency compared to bipolar transistors. The device demonstrated by Atalla and Kahng deposited gold (Au) thin films with a thickness of 10 nm on n-type germanium (n-Ge) and the point contact was n-type silicon (n-Si).[6]

In 1987, Iranian engineer Bijan Davari led an IBM research team that demonstrated the first MOSFET with a 10 nm gate oxide thickness, using tungsten-gate technology.[7]

In 2002, an international team of researchers at UC Berkeley, including Shibly Ahmed (Bangladeshi), Scott Bell, Cyrus Tabery (Iranian), Jeffrey Bokor, David Kyser, Chenming Hu (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company), and Tsu-Jae King Liu, demonstrated the first FinFET with 10 nm gate length.[8][9]

The ITRS's original naming of this technology node was "11 nm". According to the 2007 edition of the roadmap, by the year 2022, the half-pitch (i.e., half the distance between identical features in an array) for a DRAM should be 11 nm.

In 2008, Pat Gelsinger, at the time serving as Intel's Chief Technology Officer, said that Intel saw a 'clear way' towards the 10 nm node.[10][11]

In 2011, Samsung announced plans to introduce the 10 nm process the following year.[12] In 2012, Samsung announced eMMC flash memory chips that are produced using the 10 nm process.[13]

In actuality, "10 nm" as it is generally understood in 2018 is only in high-volume production at Samsung. GlobalFoundries has skipped 10 nm, Intel has not yet started high-volume 10 nm production, due to yield issues, and TSMC has considered 10 nm to be a short-lived node,[14] mainly dedicated to processors for Apple during 2017–2018, moving on to 7 nm in 2018.

There is also a distinction to be made between 10 nm as marketed by foundries and 10 nm as marketed by DRAM companies.

Technology production history

In April 2013, Samsung announced that it had begun mass production of multi-level cell (MLC) flash memory chips using a 10 nm-class process, which, according to Tom's Hardware, Samsung defined as "a process technology node somewhere between 10-nm and 20-nm".[15] On 17 October 2016, Samsung Electronics announced mass production of SoC chips at 10 nm.[16] The technology's main announced challenge has been triple patterning for its metal layer.[17][18]

TSMC began commercial production of 10 nm chips in early 2016, before moving onto mass production in early 2017.[19]

On 21 April 2017, Samsung started shipping their Galaxy S8 smartphone which uses the company's version of the 10 nm processor.[20] On 12 June 2017, Apple delivered second-generation iPad Pro tablets powered with TSMC-produced Apple A10X chips using the 10 nm FinFET process.[21]

On September 12, 2017, Apple announced the Apple A11, a 64-bit ARM-based system on a chip, manufactured by TSMC using a 10 nm FinFET process and containing 4.3 billion transistors on a die of 87.66 mm2.

In April 2018, Intel announced a delay in volume production of 10 nm mainstream CPUs until sometime in 2019.[22] In July the exact time was further pinned down to the holiday season.[23] In the meantime, however, they did release a low-power 10 nm mobile chip, albeit exclusive to Chinese markets and with much of the chip disabled.[24]

In June 2018 at VLSI 2018, Samsung announced their 11LPP and 8LPP processes. 11LPP is a hybrid based on Samsung 14 nm and 10 nm technology. 11LPP is based on their 10 nm BEOL, not their 20 nm BEOL like their 14LPP. 8LPP is based on their 10LPP process.[25][26]

10 nm process nodes


ITRS Logic Device
Ground Rules (2015)
Samsung TSMC Intel
Process name 16/14 nm 11/10 nm 10 nm 11 nm 8 nm 10 nm 10 nm[lower-alpha 1]
Transistor density (MTr / mm²) Unknown Unknown 51.82[26] 54.38[26] 61.18[26] 52.51[28] 100.8[29][lower-alpha 2]
Transistor Gate Pitch (nm) 70 48 68 ? 64 66 54
Interconnect pitch (nm) 56 36 51 ? ? 44 36
Transistor Fin Pitch (nm) 42 36 42 ? 42 36 34
Transistor Fin Height (nm) 42 42 49 ? ? Unknown 53
Production year 2015 2017 2013[15] 2018 2018 2016[19] 2018
  1. Measurements of the process used for Cannon Lake in 2018. It is unclear whether these will be the same for Intel's next 10nm process in 2019.[27]
  2. Intel uses this formula:[30]

Transistor gate pitch is also referred to as CPP (contacted poly pitch) and interconnect pitch is also referred to as MMP (minimum metal pitch). Samsung reported their 10 nm process as having a 64 nm transistor gate pitch and 48 nm interconnect pitch. TSMC reported their 10 nm process as having a 64 nm transistor gate pitch and 42 nm interconnect pitch. Further investigation by Tech Insights revealed these values to be false and they have been updated accordingly. In addition, the transistor fin height of Samsung's 10 nm process was updated by MSSCORPS CO at SEMICON Taiwan 2017.[31][32][33][34][35]


For the DRAM industry, the "10 nm" node is often referred to as "10 nm-class" and this dimension generally refers to the half-pitch of the active area. The "10 nm" foundry structures are generally much larger. Samsung is also the most prominent player for 10 nm-class DRAM.[36]


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  2. Hruska, Joel. "14nm, 7nm, 5nm: How low can CMOS go? It depends if you ask the engineers or the economists…". ExtremeTech.
  3. "Exclusive: Is Intel Really Starting To Lose Its Process Lead? 7nm Node Slated For Release in 2022". wccftech.com.
  4. "Life at 10nm. (Or is it 7nm?) And 3nm - Views on Advanced Silicon Platforms". eejournal.com.
  5. "1960: Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) Transistor Demonstrated". The Silicon Engine. Computer History Museum. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
  6. Pasa, André Avelino (2010). "Chapter 13: Metal Nanolayer-Base Transistor". Handbook of Nanophysics: Nanoelectronics and Nanophotonics. CRC Press. pp. 13–1, 13–4. ISBN 9781420075519.
  7. Davari, Bijan; Ting, Chung-Yu; Ahn, Kie Y.; Basavaiah, S.; Hu, Chao-Kun; Taur, Yuan; Wordeman, Matthew R.; Aboelfotoh, O.; Krusin-Elbaum, L.; Joshi, Rajiv V.; Polcari, Michael R. (1987). "Submicron Tungsten Gate MOSFET with 10 nm Gate Oxide". 1987 Symposium on VLSI Technology. Digest of Technical Papers: 61–62.
  8. Tsu‐Jae King, Liu (June 11, 2012). "FinFET: History, Fundamentals and Future". University of California, Berkeley. Symposium on VLSI Technology Short Course. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  9. Ahmed, Shibly; Bell, Scott; Tabery, Cyrus; Bokor, Jeffrey; Kyser, David; Hu, Chenming; Liu, Tsu-Jae King; Yu, Bin; Chang, Leland (December 2002). "FinFET scaling to 10 nm gate length" (PDF). Digest. International Electron Devices Meeting: 251–254. doi:10.1109/IEDM.2002.1175825. ISBN 0-7803-7462-2.
  10. Damon Poeter (July 2008). "Intel's Gelsinger Sees Clear Path To 10nm Chips". Archived from the original on 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  11. "MIT: Optical lithography good to 12 nanometers". Archived from the original on 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  12. "World's Largest Fabrication Facility, Line-16". Samsung. September 26, 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  13. "Samsung's new 10nm-process 64GB mobile flash memory chips are smaller, faster, better". Engadget. November 15, 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  14. 10nm rollout
  15. "Samsung Mass Producing 128Gb 3-bit MLC NAND Flash". Tom's Hardware. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  16. Samsung Starts Industry's First Mass Production of System-on-Chip with 10-Nanometer FinFET Technology, Oct 2016
  17. Samsung 10nm announcement
  18. triple patterning for 10nm metal
  19. "10nm Technology". TSMC. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  20. "Buy".
  21. techinsights.com. "10nm Rollout Marching Right Along". techinsights.com. Archived from the original on 2017-08-03. Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  22. "Intel Corp. Delays 10nm Chip Production - Mass production is now scheduled for 2019". 2018-04-29. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  23. "Intel says not to expect mainstream 10nm chips until 2H19". 2018-07-28. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  24. "Intel's First 10nm Processor Lands In China". 2018-05-15. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  25. "VLSI 2018: Samsung's 11nm nodelet, 11LPP". WikiChip Fuse. 2018-06-30. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  26. "VLSI 2018: Samsung's 8nm 8LPP, a 10nm extension". WikiChip Fuse. 2018-07-01. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  27. Demerjian, Charlie (2018-08-02). "Intel guts 10nm to get it out the door". SemiAccurate. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  28. Schor, David (2019-04-16). "TSMC Announces 6-Nanometer Process". WikiChip Fuse. Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  29. "Intel 10nm density is 2.7X improved over its 14nm node". HEXUS. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  30. Bohr, Mark (2017-03-28). "Let's Clear Up the Node Naming Mess". Intel Newsroom. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  31. "Intel Details Cannonlake's Advanced 10nm FinFET Node, Claims Full Generation Lead Over Rivals". 2017-03-28.
  32. "International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors 2.0 2015 Edition Executive Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  33. "14nm 16nm 10nm and 7nm - What we know now".
  34. "Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 First to 10 nm". Samsung 10LPE process
  35. "10 nm lithography process". wikichip.
  36. Samsung 10nm-class LPDDR4X
Preceded by
14 nm
MOSFET manufacturing processes Succeeded by
7 nm
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