Intel Redesigns the Transistor
It said the breakthrough promises power reduction and performance improvement in everything
By: Maureen O'Gara
May. 9, 2011 08:15 AM
Intel Wednesday disclosed that it has perfected - and will be able to mass produce - a new kind of transistor for the first time in the 50-odd years since the computer's basic building block was invented.
It said the breakthrough, which basically puts a fin-like second story on the humble transistor, promises power reduction and performance improvement in everything from the smallest handheld to the biggest cloud-based servers.
Intel is going to use the newfangled 3D transistors, dubbed Tri-Gate after the fin's three current-controlling gates, in making its 22nm Ivy Bridge chip, a Sandy Bridge shrink due out by the end of this year. It will also use them in its tablet- and phone-hopeful Atom chip, presumably giving it something to take up against ARM.
Because of the vertical enhancement Ivy Bridge will mean a 37% performance improvement at lower voltages than Intel's 32nm planar models and consume less than half the power at the same performance as current Intel chips.
Intel first described the widgetry in 2002. It explained the other day at a demo that the new Tri-Gate transistors represent a fundamental departure from the usual 2D planar transistors and claimed the development will translate into "world-shaping devices" that "advance Moore's Law into new realms."
The wiring is so "incredibly thin," Intel said, that more than six million 22nm Tri-Gate transistors can fit in the period at the end of this sentence.
Tri-Gate transistors should turn out chips that operate at a lower voltage with less leakage, giving developers a choice of transistors for low power or high performance depending on the application.
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