Hitachi creates worlds smallest IC

Hitachi has debuted what it describes as the world’s smallest integrated circuit. The chip is part of a newly emerging generation of wireless IC chips that one day may replace bar codes on packaging.

Measuring just 0.14986 x 0.14986 millimetres and a thickness of 0.0075 mm or 7.5 microns – even with its antennae – the contactless IC is thinner than a piece of photocopier paper.

Based on silicon on insulator (SOI) technology, the IC has a thin silicon layer on top of an insulator layer. The four-metal-layer CMOS on the SOI wafer is etched from the rear to remove the silicon substrate. The etching continues until it reaches the insulator layer creating the 7.5 micron IC.

Being incredibly small yet able to retain and transmit data, Wireless ICs could open up a whole new world of applications. These range from a new RFID technology to replace barcodes, enabling better stock control and limiting theft to tracking products from warehouse to customer delivery.

Their miniature size means that they may even find themselves in banknotes and other documents requiring absolute authenticity.

Hitachi has already developed larger versions of the chip embedded in tickets for the 2005 World Exposition Aichi although it says that the new generation will still need several years of development.

The company is due to officially unveil the new chip at the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco.

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