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May 04, 2011

Intel Redesigns Transistor Structure for 22 nm Process Node

While the transistor has continued to evolve since invention, the planar structure has not changed much in over fifty years. Now semiconductor technology giant Intel (News - Alert) has redesigned the transistor using a three-dimensional (3D) structure. The company plans to put it into high-volume manufacturing using 22 nm process node.

Intel has called this revolutionary 3D transistor design Tri-Gate, as first disclosed by Intel in 2002. It will be implemented in a chip code named Ivy Bridge using 22-nm technology, which is slated for high-volume production readiness by the end of this year.

The 3D Tri-Gate transistors represent a fundamental departure from the 2D planar transistor structure that has powered not only all computers, mobile phones and consumer electronics to-date, but also the electronic controls within cars, spacecraft, household appliances, medical devices and virtually thousands of other everyday devices for decades, said Intel.

In a statement, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini (News - Alert) commented, "Intel's scientists and engineers have once again reinvented the transistor, this time utilizing the third dimension." He added, "Amazing, world-shaping devices will be created from this capability as we advance Moore's Law into new realms."

According to Intel, the key to this breakthrough is the company’s ability to deploy novel 3D Tri-Gate transistor design into high-volume manufacturing. This will usher in the next era of Moore's Law and opening the door to a new generation of innovations across a broad spectrum of devices.

Intel said that 3D Tri-Gate transistors will enable chips to operate at lower voltage with lower leakage, providing an unprecedented combination of improved performance and energy efficiency compared to previous state-of-the-art transistors. The capabilities give chip designers the flexibility to choose transistors targeted for low power or high performance applications, added Intel.

By comparison, the 22 nm 3D Tri-Gate transistors will provide up to 37 percent performance improvement at low voltage versus Intel's 32 nm planar transistors. Alternatively, the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2D planar transistors on 32 nm chips, said the developer.

Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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