Measurement technology, which semiconductor producers use to improve the devices’ performance, has proven to be a wise investment, according to a new study from RTI International.

Over the past 10 years, improvements that have enabled even more precise creation and manufacture of the minuscule parts of chips have led to what RTI calls a “significant effect” in numerous areas.

Companies have improved innovation, productivity, growth and competitiveness, researchers said.

Measurement technology has helped increase the number of transistors on chips to 1.7 billion in 2006, compared with 3.1 million in 1996, the Web site reported. Chip performance improvement has led to faster, cheaper and better-performing devices from computers to MP3 players, according to RTI.

Financially, the improvements required investments of $12 billion over a decade, but that will produce a net benefit of $39 billion through 2011, the researchers said.

In the future, however, further investments will be required to make more advances, the researchers warned. New challenges include development of techniques for control of radio-frequency electromagnetic energy and better chemical and materials standards.

RTI prepared the report for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The is available at the  NIST’s Web site.