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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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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.

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