TSMC is investing in hardware for building a 2nm line. TSMC has been spending about $16 billion annually on R&D.

On the heels of the recently announcing production of a 5 nm process in Q4 of 2020, TSMC is pumping out new nodes faster than Intel and Samsung. 

The TSMC 5nm line is now ramping up into full production. The 3 nm node is intended for trial production in the first half of 2021, while the mass production is expected to commence in 2022.

According to the foundry’s CEO, Liu Deyin, speaking at a shareholders meeting, N4 will be a 4 nm node, and an enhancement of N5P, the company’s most advanced 5 nm-class node. N4 is slated for mass-production of contracted products in 2023, and could help TSMC’s customers execute their product roadmaps of the time. From the looks of it, N4 is a repeat of the N6 story: a nodelet that’s an enhancement of N7+, the company’s most advanced 7 nm-class node that leverages EUV lithography.

TSMC has recently purchased more expensive Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV) lithography machines for the 2 nm node. Due to the high costs of these EUV machines, TSMC’s $16 billion R&D budget is largely committed.

As far as a timeline for 2 nm is concerned, we don’t know when will TSMC start trial production as the node is still in development phases.

The small 2nm node is likely to be complicated to designed logic. The gate all around is likely to need to be redesigned for even smaller feature sizes.

For those with F- in atomic physics, the silicon atom has a radius of about 210 picometers. Gallium is smaller at 135 pm and Arsenic is 114 pm which suggest GaAs may be the only way to go below 5nm and still be able to have at least one layer for the gate.