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Much is heard about the importance of processors in most of the electronic equipment we use in our daily lives — and, as much as we all have heard the name of this piece, it is common that we have little knowledge about how it is developed and installed on devices.
Thinking about it, the showmetech prepared this special that explains how processors are produced — explaining from their functions to the creation and manufacturing process. Check out:
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What is the function of the processor?
In an objective answer, o processor is the component of a computer that executes the instructions and tasks that make the equipment work. It is responsible for processing data and executing software instructions, such as calculating, storing, and fetching information.
In other words, the processor is the equivalent of the human brain in the computer, as it will perform several fundamental functions for the operation and allow several activities to occur simultaneously. The part is responsible for processing the data received in binary format 0 and 1, and interprets them based on the instructions stored in its internal memory.
In the past, processors had only one core. Today, however, they can have multiple cores to more efficiently handle multiple incoming simultaneously. For example, there are processors Dual-Core (2 cores), Quad-Core (4 cores), and even processors with 32 cores like the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X on high-performance computers.
Thus, a computer can perform several tasks at the same time, allowing you, for example, to edit text in one program, listen to music in another and browse the internet. The concept also applies to modern video games, which process not only the game itself, but also the menu interfaces of consoles, streaming and other resources.
The Importance of Silicon
You've definitely heard of Silicon Valley and you know that material is important for several components in the world of technology, but have you stopped to think about why? Silicon is used as the main component in silicones, glass, cement, ceramics, and the reason for its abundant use in several areas is precisely its high availability, as it is considered the second most found element on the Earth's surface, behind only oxygen.
In the technology industry, the reason why silicon is so important is related to transistors, a piece that has the function of amplifying an electric current or obstructing its passage, depending on its configuration in the circuit.
The whole basis of our modern technology is born in the transistor concept created by John Bardeen and Walter House Brittain in 1947 in the laboratories of Bell Telephone and, in turn, this device is made using silicon.
In addition to its characteristics and availability, silicon is considered an easy element to work with and scientists have discovered ways to grow it into perfectly ordered crystals, with the production of almost perfect silicon crystals, cut into small blades known as wafers, being fundamental for the manufacture of computer chips.
The manufacture of processors
As mentioned above, the wafer silicon is extremely important — it being the basic component for the creation of any processor chip. In addition, it is extremely important that it be produced in a completely controlled location, as it needs to be composed of 99,9999% pure silicon, demanding an expensive and complicated process to make — with each wafer of 30 centimeters costing more than US$ 20 thousand for companies like Intel.
Next, the manufacturing process of an individual transistor will be represented, since it is impossible to didactically represent the construction of all procedures simultaneously. However, the technique for building a processor 2 Core Duo involves building 291 million of these transistors.
The first part of the process consists of oxidizing the upper layer of the wafer (1), transforming it into silicon dioxide (2) and, from that, this surface will be the base for the construction of the transistor that will compose the processor. Next, a layer of photosensitive material (3) will be applied and the lithography process will be carried out, which consists of emitting an ultraviolet light in some areas of the surface – this pattern being different for each processor due to the design that is to be obtained.
After exposure to light in the lithography, parts will transform into a gelatinous substance that will be removed by a chemical bath, remaining the layers of exposed areas of silicon dioxide and the others that remain covered by the remaining photosensitive layer (4). The next step is a new chemical bath of different compounds to remove the unprotected parts of silicon dioxide, leaving only what has the layer that went through the lithography on top (5) and, finally, the remaining photosensitive part is removed , remaining only the layer of silicon dioxide needed in the design of the structure.
In the process so far, a transistor layer has been made. However, normally a transistor has several layers depending on its complexity, so the construction of its second layer (7) begins, being covered again by silicon dioxide and maintaining the design previously made underneath. The previous process is repeated for the processes of images in the text in 8, 9, 10 and 11 with the application of the photosensitive layer and the removal by chemical bath, remaining with the necessary silicon dioxide.
In the middle of this process, there is a step of introducing impurities (12), which are ions. This will be necessary for the wafer of silicon becomes a conductive material and these ions will be adhered only in the layer exposed in the previous process to the layers of silicon dioxide. The next step is the application of a third layer using the same previous concepts in images 13, 14, 15 and 16.
Finally, the process is almost finished after your third layer with an elaborate structure. Then, a thin layer of metal is applied with an advanced technique that has a thickness of only 3 atoms (17) and, to conclude, the lithography process is carried out again to remove unwanted parts at the end of the process (18).
All this complex process is carried out simultaneously for thousands of transistors that will compose the internal structure of our processor, and in real production, masks are used containing all the components of the processor with the construction of their layers and, at the end of the task, the processor will be complete with all its complexity.
The technology industry has managed to increase the capacity of processors without increasing their physical size, thanks to nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is a branch of science that focuses on nanometer-sized items. A nanometer equals one millionth of a millimeter, while a micron equals one thousandth of a millimeter.
With the help of nanotechnology, transistors on chips can be made smaller and smaller. For example, the processor Intel 486 it had about 1 million transistors about 1 micron in size. The latest processors, such as the Intel Core Duo 2, have approximately 291 million transistors with 0,045 micron (45 nanometer) manufacturing technology.
The technology industry will face a physical limit, where it will be impossible to further reduce the transistors, which will already be formed by few atoms. However, there is already research being carried out to find a solution to this problem. One of them is quantum computing, which not only overcomes the physical limits of classical processors, but could also revolutionize computing as a whole.
Encapsulation and definition of models
Once the lithography process and construction of the processor have been completed, each of the parts will be tested using electrical probes, allowing each core to be energized. O wafer then it will be cut in a process known as “say” to occur the encapsulation of each processor with label and different models and families.
A curiosity is that in general, manufacturers like AMD e Intel maintain a production line for each processor and their differences between them as a Core duo 2.4 GHz and a Core duo 2.96 GHz is due to variations that can occur on the production line. Then, a process of identifying these differences is carried out to adapt each processor to an identification with its own specifications.
And with that, the processor is finally finished. Did you find the process interesting? Tell us in the comments!
Text proofread by: Dacio Castelo Branco
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