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Chip makers are already using ultraviolet photography and liquid immersion to produce chips - the other big shift on the horizon, according to IBM, will be the move to Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) production. This is a form of what Arthur calls "very sophisticated photography" that could be used to print the next generation of chips. "The cost of those tools is staggering - numbers like a quarter of a billion dollars," he adds. "But it is what will allow you print lines that are 8nm or 6nm. That's the rub. When do the current ultraviolet tools run out of gas?"
The path ahead to the next chip process is just about visible - after that, everything is murky. But, as Arthur points out, this is nothing new: "I've been here 32 years, working on semiconductors for 28 of those, and every generation we're in, we say, we see the path to this one, and maybe, if we're lucky, the one beyond. And then we say we have no idea. So it requires invention."
All Images courtesy of IBM.