IEDM 2017 + ISSCC 2018: Intel’s 10nm, switching to cobalt interconnects

At the 2017 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco, Intel formally detailed its 10-nanometer process technology. This leading-edge process is expected to be utilized by many of their future products, including their FPGAs and desktop and server microprocessors.

The 10 nm process was presented by Chris Auth, vice president at Intel Corporation and the director of advanced transistor development. Auth was responsible for leading the development of Intel’s 10 nanometer high-performance CMOS logic transistor process.


Because this article was planned for late January, we’ve decided to withhold publication and incorporate additional 10nm details from the 65th International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) which was held earlier this week. At ISSCC, Zheng Guo presented Intel’s 10nm SRAM devices which are discussed later in this article.


The major features are:

  • 2.7x density over their 14nm
  • 3rd generation FinFET transistors
  • Self-Aligned Quad-Patterning (SAQP)
  • Contact-over-active-gate (COAG)
  • Cobalt local interconnect, vias, and trench contacts
  • Cobalt interconnect liners

Design Features

Intel’s 10 nanometer largely builds on many of their existing technologies.

  • 2nd generation Low-κ spacer
  • 3rd generation of fully depleted FinFET transistors
  • 5th generation High-κ metal gate
  • 7th generation strain silicon
  • Self-Aligned Quad Patterning (SAQP) for the critical patterning layers (3 critical layers)
  • 4 workfunction metals on the base process
  • Self-Aligned trench contact

They first introduced their fully-depleted FinFET structures at the 22 nm node and most recently in their 14 nm node. Likewise, the High-κ gate was first introduced in their 45 nm node and have been used ever since. It’s worth pointing out that in addition to the 4 workfunction metals used for the base process, Intel noted that they also have 6 workfunction metals that can be introduced for high-Vth transistors when needed.


Beyond Conventional Scaling

While the time between each consecutive technology nodes have lengthened, Intel has attempted to compensate for this by accelerating the density of each process. Going from the 22-nanometer node down to the 14-nanometer, transistor density increased by 2.5x. Likewise, going from the 14-nanometer down to the 10-nanometer node we see a 2.7x increase in density. In other words, from the introduction of the 22 nm node in late 2011 to the ramp-up of Intel’s 10 nm in 2018 we have observed close to 7x density increase over the span of 7 years.

Transistor Density (Image: Intel)

Key Dimensions

The key transistor dimensions for Intel’s 10nm are:

Intel 10nm Process
Feature Pitch Scaling
Fin 34 nm 0.81x
Gate 54 nm 0.77x
M0 40 nm 0.71x
M1 36 nm 0.51x

For their 10nm paper, Intel used a 46 nm fin height transistor (although that’s discussed further later on) with a pitch of 7nm and a gate length of 18nm. This roughly translate to around 100nm gate width. Below is a rough diagram of the features:

WikiChip’s Transistor Diagram (simplified)

In order to enable a pitch down to 34 nanometers, such as in the case of the fin pitch and the minimum metal layer, Intel has moved to self-aligned quadruple patterning (SAQP). Dual patterning (SADP) was first introduced at the 22nm node and is continued to be used for the down to the 44nm pitch. For the wider pitch, single patterning is used.

WikiChip’s basic diagram of a cell.

At 272nm cell height and 34nm fin pitch, there are eight lines that can be used. It’s worth noting that Intel uses different cells for different applications.


Spotted an error? Help us fix it! Simply select the problematic text and press Ctrl+Enter to notify us.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Maynard Handley
Maynard Handley
3 years ago

Nice article as usual, David, But might I suggest that in most places you replace “resistivity” with “resistance”?

The issue is not “resistivity” per se, no?
The issue is that what matters is the resistance of “wires as manufactured”. This resistance is a composite of bulk resistivity, surface effects, and the effective area that can be dedicated to the wire given manufacturing realities. Use of cobalt lowers the resistance because even though the bulk resistivity goes up, the other factors in that composite go down — the surface effects and the reduced effective area.

James L
James L
Reply to  Maynard Handley
3 years ago

“The issue is not “resistivity” per se, no?”

The issue is both resistance and resistivity though. Resistivity is an intrinsic property which is meant to describe the natural resistance to the flow in unconstrained space. But as you scale, you are no longer in unconstrained space and the increased surface scattering is said to affect the resistivity of the material.

I can’t speak for the author but as someone who discussed the subject with engineers in the past, often when they refer to the resistivity of the wire, it is a simple way of referring to the resistivty of the composite wire (core/barrier as a single material) rather than the resistance which is a function of the length and cross-sectional area.

Sanne Deijkers
Sanne Deijkers
2 months ago

Hi, very nice article which really give insight in the pros and cons of copper versus cobalt. I was however wondering where the following claim comes from: “Additionally, in contrast to copper, it has been demonstrated that a single film, as thin as 1 nm, is sufficient to serve as both the liner and barrier for cobalt.”

I would be very interested to learn more about the difference in barrier requirements for the use of copper and cobalt.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: