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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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By EricMartello on 5/4/2011 5:28:26 PM , Rating: 2
Two points:

- Lower voltage means lower power utilization and lower TDP. It's not a bad thing to increase performance while reducing power requirements.

- If this were a technology aimed solely at "low end, budget and mobile" markets, it would be an even bigger threat to AMD because those are the verticals keeping AMD in the CPU game.

I'd really like to see some serious competition from AMD but it has been over a decade since AMD was truly competitive with Intel.

By Iketh on 5/4/2011 10:40:27 PM , Rating: 3
OVER a decade?? It's much less than a decade still... try 6 years

By EricMartello on 5/6/2011 7:33:10 PM , Rating: 2
Six years ago from this year coincides with the release of Intel's Core2Duo line of processors, which was basically the deathblow to AMD's chances of having competitive streak any time soon...

Prior to that the AMD offers were not exactly blazing past Intel's offerings, even with the relatively inefficient P4 - the fastest P4 (extreme edition) was faster than the fastest AMD offering. We're defining "competitive" as having equal or at least similar performance. While there may be overlap between some AMD and Intel CPUs in terms of performance, the fastest Intel CPU trounces the fastest AMD offering by far, and it has been this way for over a decade. Why?

The price:performance advantage was essentially gone during the P4 era. It was the Athlon/Athlon64 days circa 2000 (TBird, Palomino, T-Bred) where AMD was actually competitive and even seemed to have an advantage over Intel because their CPUs were just as powerful and 30-40% cheaper . Today, AMD's CPUs are not just as powerful as Intel's even if they are still slightly cheaper, and therefore are not competitive. My math tells me 2011 minus 2000 is 11 years, also known as over a decade.

By Iketh on 5/18/2011 12:25:16 PM , Rating: 2
Quit blurring the line between competitive and performance leader. AMD was last competitive 6 years ago, even by your own definition.

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