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Qualcomm and other Samsung clients could get a boost from novel power-saving gate design

At the Intel Develop Forum, the world's largest maker of traditional PC central processing units and server chips, Intel Corp. (INTC) is fond of expressing how it's crushing its rivals in process technology.  But by the looks of it the rest of the pack may not be as far behind as Intel would like to have you believe.

On Friday, Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930announced that it had successfully taped out a 14 nm FinFET transistor chip.  For those who don't avidly follow the CPU design industry, most traditional transistors are flat multi-layer designs (think a sandwich).  By contrast the FinFET uses a tall wall-like gate, which towers over the nanoscopic surface like a fin.  The novel 3D design allows leakage to be significantly reduced -- a key source of loss in reliability and power at sub 40-nm designs.

Intel was the first player to get FinFETs, with its 22 nm Ivy Bridgelaunched earlier this year.  It plans to roll over the technology into its mobile offerings next year.  But by the sound of it Samsung won't be far behind.

Samsung worked with a chip-optimizing firm called Synopsys to perfect the difficult process of producing the delicate FinFETs at such a small node.

MOSFET FinFET
A MOSFET FinFET [Image Source: Brews Ohare/Wikipedia]

Samsung LSI vice president Dr. Kyu-Myung Choi cheers, "FinFET transistors can deliver lower power consumption and higher device performance, but they also bring tough challenge.  We chose Synopsys as our FinFET collaboration partner to solve these challenges, because of our successful history together at 20 nanometer and other nodes. We continue to pool our expertise to deliver innovative FinFET solutions."

Synopsys's expertise helped Samsung characterize the prototype chips and to remove so-called "parasitic" impurities.

The chipmaking duo did not announce a time frame for commercial rollout.  But when Samsung does achieve commercial mass-production of 14 nm FinFETs, one interested party will surely be Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) whose SnapDragon 4 system-on-a-chip (SoC) design Samsung recently began producing at its monolithic Texas chipmaking facilities.

Source: Samsung [press release]





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