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Intel carries out Moore's 'commandment'

Posted: 29 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processor? high-k material? Intel? 65nm? 45nm?

Fulfilling the prophecy of one of its founders, Intel Corp. announced over the weekend that it has achieved a significant breakthrough in transistor technology by developing high-k and metal gate transistors for its 45nm process. The company disclosed that it will use a new material with a property called high-k for the transistor gate dielectric, and a new combination of metal materials for the transistor gate electrode.

Intel also announced that working 45nm microprocessors have been made using the high-k and metal gate transistors, with 45nm products!codenamed Penryn!set to begin production in 2H 2007.

Multicore processors developed in Intel's 45nm process will reportedly deliver higher performance and greater energy efficiency. Compared to today's 65nm technology, said Intel, its 45nm technology will provide 2X improvement in transistor density, a 30 percent reduction in transistor switching power, over 20 percent improvement in transistor switching speed or more than 5X reduction in source-drain leakage power, and over 10X reduction in gate oxide leakage power.

Move over SiO2
Silicon dioxide has been used to make the transistor gate dielectric for more than four decades because of its manufacturability and ability to deliver continued transistor performance improvements. However, the continued shrinkage of semiconductors has led to increased current leakage through the gate dielectric, resulting in wasted electric current and unnecessary heat. To address this, Intel replaced the silicon dioxide with a thicker hafnium-based high-k material in the gate dielectric.

But since the high-k gate dielectric is not compatible with today's silicon gate electrode, the second step to Intel's gameplan towards 45nm success is the development of new metal gate materials. Intel declined to reveal the specific metal gate and high-k dielectric materials that it will use.

"The implementation of high-k and metal materials marks the biggest change in transistor technology since the introduction of polysilicon gate MOS transistors in the late 1960s," Gordon Moore, Intel cofounder, said in a statement.

The law of Moore
To comply with Moore's Law!the prediction by Moore that the number of transistors on a chip roughly doubles every 18-24 months!transistors must continue to shrink to ever-smaller sizes. However, with current materials, the ability to shrink transistors is getting harder because of increased power and heat issues that develop as feature sizes reach atomic levels. As a result, finding new materials to use is imperative to the future of Moore's Law.

The Penryn family of processors is a derivative of the Intel Core microarchitecture. The company said it already has five early-version products up and running!the first of 15 processor products based on 45nm in development across desktop, mobile, workstation and enterprise segments.

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