Intel has announced the use of new materials to build parts of next-generation chips based on the 45 nanometer (nm) production process, claiming it is the biggest change in computer chips in 40 years. The company said the materials will be used to build the insulating walls and switching gates of its 45nm transistors. This change allows for performance hikes in future multi-core processors, while reducing the amount of electrical leakage from transistors by up to 10 times.
Intel claimed that use of the new materials gives it a one-year head start over rivals in the 45nm space and said it had five working versions of the new processors. The first production run is slated for the second half of the year.
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, said: “The implementation of high-k and metal materials marks the biggest change in transistor technology since the introduction of polysilicon gate metal-oxide-semiconductor transistors in the late 1960s.”
Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow, said: “As more transistors are packed onto a single piece of silicon, the industry continues to research leakage-reduction solutions. Our implementation of novel high-k and metal gate transistors for our 45nm process technology will help Intel deliver faster, more energy-efficient multi-core products that build upon our successful Intel Core 2 and Xeon family of processors.”
Intel’s claim of a one-year lead might be optimistic though as IBM and its partners – AMD, Toshiba and Sony – have announced their own 45nm breakthrough. Big Blue said it had also found a way to construct a critical part of the transistor with a new material, opening a way to chip circuitry that is smaller, faster and more power-efficient. More importantly, IBM said the technology can be incorporated into existing chip manufacturing lines with minimal changes.
Tze-Chiang Chen, vice-president of science and technology at IBM Research, said: “Until now, the chip industry was facing a roadblock in terms of how far we could push technology. But after more than 10 years, we have a way. With chip technology so pervasive in our everyday lives, this will benefit people in many ways.”
The IBM approach also uses ‘high-k metal gate’ technology, a new material with superior-electrical properties. It will allow a significant reduction in the size of transistors, the vendor said.
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