Thursday, January 25, 2007

Intel Announces High-k Breakthrough in Transistor Design

Intel announced a breakthrough that significantly reduces transistor leakage and increases performance in its 45nm process technology.

Described as one of the biggest advancements in fundamental transistor design in forty years, Intel said the use of new materials with "high-k" properties will enable hundreds of millions of transistors to be included in its next generation Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Core 2 Quad and Xeon families of multi-core processors. The company also said it has five early-version products up and running -- the first of fifteen 45nm processor products planned from Intel.

Intel believes it has extended its lead of more than a year over the rest of the semiconductor industry with the first working 45nm processors of its next-generation 45nm family of products -- codenamed "Penryn."

"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," said Intel Co-Founder Gordon Moore.

Intel said its breakthrough centers on the transistor gate dielectric -- an insulator underneath the gate that separates it from the channel where current flows. Silicon dioxide has been used to make the transistor gate dielectric for more than 40 years because of its manufacturability and ability to deliver continued transistor performance improvements as it has been made ever thinner.
Intel has successfully shrunk the silicon dioxide gate dielectric to as little as 1.2nm thick -- equal to five atomic layers -- on its previous 65nm process technology, but the continued shrinking has led to increased current leakage through the gate dielectric, resulting in wasted electric current and unnecessary heat.

To solve this critical issue, Intel replaced the silicon dioxide with a thicker hafnium-based high-k material in the gate dielectric, reducing leakage by more than 10 times compared to the silicon dioxide used for more than four decades. Because the high-k gate dielectric is not compatible with today's silicon gate electrode, the second part of Intel's 45nm transistor material recipe is the development of new metal gate materials. While the specific metals that Intel uses remains secret, the company will use a combination of different metal materials for the transistor gate electrodes.


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