WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Smaller transistors mean more powerful computer chips and as giants like Intel struggle others are speeding ahead.
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As transistor sizes get increasingly smaller, with 7nm transistor chips now being fabricated commercially, and 3nm, 2nm, 1nm, 0.5nm, and even 0nm size transistors tentatively leaving the labs, countries and companies around the world are all racing to stay ahead of one another in what’s seen as one of the world’s most important technology fields. There are also plastic computer chips now on the market too from companies like ARM – so as you can see the future of computing isn’t going to be what many people think it will be … but that’s a whole other story.
Now, just weeks after Intel announced big plans to help the company regain its authority in chip production, the Taiwanese government has now given the greenlight to TSMC to begin construction on the company’s most sophisticated chip plant yet.
According to Nikkei Asia, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s new foundry will produce 2-nanometer chips. Construction on the plant in Hsinchu, southwest from Taiwan’s capital of Taipei, is expected to start as soon as early 2022.
This isn’t great news for Intel, which yesterday said it would reach process parity by 2024 and leadership by 2025. TSMC’s 3nm tech is reportedly expected to be put into production in late 2022 – meanwhile, Intel will be rolling out 7nm chips toward the end of 2022 and into 2023. Now that TSMC has approval to start work on a plant that will produce 2nm chips, which are expected to debut in 2023, well – Intel has its work cut out for it.
Prior to getting final approval, the last big hurdle for TSMC was getting permission from Taiwan’s Environmental Review Committee with many of Taiwan’s chip makers including region having faced setbacks earlier this spring due to low water supply caused by recent droughts, making sure the area had enough resources to supply the plant was critical. TSMC accounts for 56% of of the global semiconductor foundry market, so it seems the Taiwanese government made a point not to get in the way of TSMC’s future plans.
“The semiconductor industry is one of the most crucial industries to Taiwan’s economic growth,” Taiwan economics vice minister Lin Chuan-neng said during an environmental review meeting. “The government will help TSMC to achieve its environmental targets while continuing to build the advanced technologies.”
However, in its quest for growth and development, TSMC missed its own internal sustainability goals in 2020, which isn’t a great sign for an industry already struggling to reduce its carbon footprint and its impact on the environment.
TSMC is also expanding one of its existing plants in Nanjing, China, and building another new foundry in Arizona to better supply US companies with processors. Apple, which is a TSMC customer, is expected to use the advanced chips in its future iPhones.