Intel to bring 3D transistors to next-generation chips

The new transistor technology will make chips faster and more power-efficient

Image credit: Intel.

Image credit: Intel.

Intel has advanced its chip manufacturing technology with three-dimensional transistors that could make PCs, smartphones and tablets faster and more power-efficient.

The company said Wednesday that it will implement three-dimensional transistors when making chips using its latest 22-nanometer manufacturing technology.

The new chip technology, called tri-gate transistors, replaces flat, two-dimensional streams of transistors with a 3D structure, said Mark Bohr, an Intel senior fellow. A flat, two-dimensional planar gate is replaced with a thin, three-dimensional fin that rises up vertically from the silicon substrate.

The technology will allow Intel to create transistors that are faster, smaller and more power-efficient, Bohr said. The benefits of the new technology will range across the product lines from the fastest server to the most power-efficient smartphone chips made by Intel.

"We have to continually innovate new material and structures," Bohr said during a press conference held in San Francisco, which was webcast. "With 22-nanometer, this is the new structure."

The tri-gate transistors will be up to 37 percent faster than Intel's current chips made using the existing 32-nm process. The 3D transistors also consume less than half the power of 2D transistors on 32-nm chips. The chips will also be cheaper, Bohr said.

Intel advances its manufacturing process every two years, which helps make chips smaller and drives raw system performance while using less power. The first chips to use the 22-nm process will be Core chips for desktops and PCs built on a microarchitecture code-named Ivy Bridge. The Ivy Bridge chips will have new features, including hardware support for the latest DirectX 11 graphics technology.

Intel has also said it would release 22-nm processors for tablets in 2013.

Intel in October last year announced it would invest between US$6 billion and $8 billion to manufacture new chips for PCs, smartphones, consumer electronics and embedded devices. Some of those funds will be spent on upgrading factories to make chips using the new 22-nm process. In addition, Intel in February this year also announced it would invest $5 billion to build a new chip manufacturing facility in Arizona, which is expected to be completed by 2013.

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