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32nm Planar transistor on the left versus 22nm 3D Tri-Gate transistor on the right. The yellow dots represent current flow.  (Source: Intel)

The 22nm 3D tri-gate transistor   (Source: Intel)
New 22nm 3D Tri-Gate transistors will boost performance by up to 37 percent compared to existing 32nm technology

When it comes to making advances in manufacturing technologies for semiconductors, we can always look to Intel to lead the way. Today is no exception as the Santa Clara, California-based company announced today that it will incorporate 3D transistors into its upcoming 22nm microprocessors. 

Intel says that its 3D transistor design, which it calls Tri-Gate, marks the first time that a three-dimensional structure has been incorporated into high-volume production. Ivy Bridge will be the first recipient of Tri-Gate.

"Intel's scientists and engineers have once again reinvented the transistor, this time utilizing the third dimension," said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini. "Amazing, world-shaping devices will be created from this capability as we advance Moore's Law into new realms."

Intel goes on to describe 3D Tri-Gate as follows:

The traditional "flat" two-dimensional planar gate is replaced with an incredibly thin three-dimensional silicon fin that rises up vertically from the silicon substrate. Control of current is accomplished by implementing a gate on each of the three sides of the fin – two on each side and one across the top -- rather than just one on top, as is the case with the 2-D planar transistor. The additional control enables as much transistor current flowing as possible when the transistor is in the "on" state (for performance), and as close to zero as possible when it is in the "off" state (to minimize power), and enables the transistor to switch very quickly between the two states (again, for performance). 

Just as skyscrapers let urban planners optimize available space by building upward, Intel's 3-D Tri-Gate transistor structure provides a way to manage density. Since these fins are vertical in nature, transistors can be packed closer together, a critical component to the technological and economic benefits of Moore's Law. For future generations, designers also have the ability to continue growing the height of the fins to get even more performance and energy-efficiency gains.

Tri-Gate will provide unprecedented levels of performance and power savings according to Intel. The technology will allow processors to run at lower voltages while at the same time limiting the amount of leakage current. In fact, Intel says that processors using 22nm Tri-Gate transistors offers up to a whopping 37 percent performance boost at low voltages.

Naturally, higher performance at lower operating voltage will do wonders in Intel's never-ending quest to chase down low-power ARM chips with its Atom-based processors.

"The low-voltage and low-power benefits far exceed what we typically see from one process generation to the next," said Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr. "It will give product designers the flexibility to make current devices smarter and wholly new ones possible. We believe this breakthrough will extend Intel's lead even further over the rest of the semiconductor industry." 

Ivy Bridge processors using Intel's 3D Tri-Gate technology will enter production later this year. You can watch a YouTube clip on 3D Tri-Gate here.

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37% Increase?
By flurazepam on 5/4/2011 1:26:51 PM , Rating: 4

RE: 37% Increase?
By Brandon Hill on 5/4/2011 1:27:59 PM , Rating: 2
My thoughts exactly! :)

RE: 37% Increase?
By MrBlastman on 5/4/2011 1:36:46 PM , Rating: 2
I sooo wanted to be able to buy AMD again someday (used them for 10 years)... but, it looks like my next upgrade will be Intel once again. :(

37% is 37%. That's a huge number in this game.

RE: 37% Increase?
By therealnickdanger on 5/4/2011 2:01:22 PM , Rating: 3
That video was very cool! I never really give what goes into making a processor much thought, but it's always good to get some perspective. Technology is f*cking awesome.

37% increase in performance WITH more than 50% power reduction. I was already thinking of skipping Sandy Bridge due to the absense of USB3, but now I feel like it's just the right thing to do even moreso. Besides, I want to see what Llano can do...

RE: 37% Increase?
By AnnihilatorX on 5/5/2011 5:46:36 AM , Rating: 2
I am sure AMD has something similiar in mind.

3D transistors had been hinted in academic paper, of course the specific design Intel use had been kept secret.

The question is when AMD can do catch up

RE: 37% Increase?
By B3an on 5/5/2011 10:18:56 AM , Rating: 1
I read about 3D transistors well over 5 years ago. It's not like AMD, ARM, and everyone else didn't know this was coming.

I'm glad to see it's almost here for consumers.

RE: 37% Increase?
By Da W on 5/5/2011 10:44:44 AM , Rating: 2,2817,2384927,

3D Transistors? We Don't Need 'Em, AMD's Foundry Says
Globalfoundries has yet to specify the direction it plans to go to 22/20-nm manufacturing, beyond a plan it released in Sept. 2010. Then, it said that it will use a "High Performance" technology for servers and media processors, a 20-nm "Super Low Power" technology for mobile chips, and a 20-nm "Super High Performance" technology for high-end products. But the company has also ruled out following Intel's lead.

"We and our development partners have longstanding programs to evaluate options for next-generation transistors, including non-planar structures, and we don't see the need for these technologies until beyond the 22/20nm generation," Globalfoundries said in a statement. "Our focus for 22/20nm is to maintain the same increases in performance, power efficiency, and density that we've seen moving from 45/40nm to 32/28nm with the addition of High-k Metal Gate (HKMG). Planar CMOS allows us to achieve these requirements with multiple innovations in materials integration, lithography, and interconnect technology."

That may mean that Globalfoundries, which shares R&D expenses with IBM and Samsung, may pick up the pace. "We believe foundries are working on similar technology but remain 18-24 months behind Intel's ability to bring the technology to market (expect attempts at 14nm)," Doug Freedman, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., wrote in a research note.

RE: 37% Increase?
By Gondor on 5/4/2011 1:38:23 PM , Rating: 2
What a way to sour AMD's upcoming launches :(

"The next best thing" is always just around the corner so I was eagerly awaiting Bulldozer ... but 37% ?

RE: 37% Increase?
By Da W on 5/4/2011 1:58:30 PM , Rating: 3
Yup, there's an advantage Intel has that nobody else can challenge.

RE: 37% Increase?
By StevoLincolnite on 5/4/2011 2:06:33 PM , Rating: 3
Doesn't mean the CPU is 37% faster, I assume it's just the transistors switch 37% faster.
CPU architectural efficiencies will still apply.

RE: 37% Increase?
By kattanna on 5/4/2011 4:20:34 PM , Rating: 3
it also states at low voltages, which might be the "catch" here.

RE: 37% Increase?
By tastyratz on 5/4/2011 9:52:29 PM , Rating: 2
very well could be. Does this mean low operating voltages or lower than standard performance voltages? Better speedstep performance? it might not mean 37% actual better power savings or performance overall, just special situations. I look forward to seeing how it plays out. 37% of anything is a bold claim.

RE: 37% Increase?
By AnnihilatorX on 5/5/2011 10:52:49 AM , Rating: 2
Quoting Anandtech:

At lower voltages Intel is claiming a 37% increase in performance vs. its 32nm process and an 18% increase in performance at 1V. High end desktop and mobile parts fall into the latter category. Ivy Bridge is likely to see gains on the order of 18% vs. Sandy Bridge, however Intel may put those gains to use by reducing overall power consumption of the chip as well as pushing for higher frequencies. The other end of that curve is really for the ultra mobile chips, this should mean big news for the 22nm Atom which I'm guessing we'll see around 2013.

RE: 37% Increase?
By Jeffk464 on 5/4/2011 3:48:12 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, bad news for AMD and bulldozer.

RE: 37% Increase?
By Skywalker123 on 5/4/2011 6:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
Me too, I've been itching to replace the E8500 I have, I figured I would try Bulldozer, but now I guess I'll wait for Ivy Bridge.

RE: 37% Increase?
By Adonlude on 5/5/2011 4:30:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still gaming on an E6700 and WinXP. Darn, looks like I will be waiting longer for more FPS!

RE: 37% Increase?
By FaceMaster on 5/4/2011 1:58:15 PM , Rating: 2
37%? That's like, almost 38...

...but still a long way away from 9000.

RE: 37% Increase?
By digitalreflex on 5/4/2011 2:07:31 PM , Rating: 2
While AMD might not be able to compete toe to toe on performance (not that they have a bad product), I have no doubt if they weren't there to push Intel this wouldn't be happening now. Competition is great!

RE: 37% Increase?
By Amiga500 on 5/5/2011 4:31:40 AM , Rating: 2
Not yikes... that includes the process shrink of going from 32nm to 22nm. So they'd be seeing maybe a 25% change anyway.

More pertinently, at higher voltages, that performance improvement drops off.

Basically, this is good for low power devices and energy efficiency, but not such a big deal at the high end. Therefore BD is not the one directly under threat, but Bobcat and Llano are - luckily for AMD they are probably the parts with the greatest competitive margin to Intel's offerings.

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