Intel Says 45 Nanometer Microprocessors Due Later This Year

January 27th, 2007 |
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Intel announced that it will begin making 45 nanometer chips, code-named Penryn, in the second half of the year. The new microprocessors are the culmination of years of R&D using new materials to improve the efficiency and performance of silicon-based semiconductors.

The company says the new chip technology maintains Moore’s Law, the observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in the late 1960s that the number of transistors doubles on chips every two years. Intel scientists say that transistors are now so small that more than 300 can fit on a human red blood cell.

In a recent earnings announcement, Intel officials said they expect to rebuild a lead in the computer chip market through innovation and manufacturing efficiency. Intel’s current line of microprocessors includes the Core2Duo, Core2Extreme, and Core2Quad.

In this video podcast, PodTech’s Jason Lopez visits Intel’s Hillsboro, Oregon research facility and fab.

Related Stories: IntelMooresLaw

Transcript:

Host: Jason Lopez – PodTech

Guests: Intel Spokesperson

Guest: Kelin Kuhn – Intel

Jason Lopez – PodTech

Transistors are the miniature machines of the heart of computers. The first transistors built on silicon in the 1960’s were relatively large compared to those of today. But in the last few years, scientists have sensed The End of Moore’s Law as the quest to double a number of transistors on a chip every two years has pushed the limits of physics.

This test wafer is used to measure the reliability of billions of H transistor and interconnect features, the blue prints for making microprocessors. For nearly 40 years, transistors have been made from a polysilicon gate and silicon gate oxide, the materials used to create the switch inside that turns it on and off. But with 65 nanometer technology currently in production, those materials have been pushed to their physical limits. To go smaller at 45 nanometers scientists said Intel chose new materials a Metal gate and High-K gate oxide based on the element hafnium. These materials have enabled yet again the doubling of the density of transistors within a two-year timeframe.

Intel code names its new family of 45 nanometer chips ‘Penryn’ which deliver a significant improvement in power efficiency and performance.

Speaker

This is a really tremendous accomplishment to get all the way down to 45 nanometer dimensions. When I joined Intel five micron dimensions were common. 45 nanometers is more than a 100 times smaller than that. So, quite remarkable.

Kelin Kuhn – Intel

If you think about it, if you look at the Intel 45 nanometer device technology, we can fit 400 transistors on something about the size of the human blood cell.

Speaker

So, it allows us to continue scaling and maintain this Moore’s Law type of evolutionary built up we’ve seen.

Speaker

Well, developing smaller transistors or technologies with smaller feature size is very key, because it allows you to pack more transistors on a chip which means you can do more things with that chip, that also means that these transistors when they’re smaller can use less energy when you switch them on and off. So, you have better power efficiency, you can get certain computational functions done using less energy, less power.

Jason Lopez – PodTech

Intel’s drive to adhere to Moore’s Law is as much an economic decision as it is a scientific one. It’s one thing to make the Metal gate and High-K gate oxide technologies work. It’s another to make 45 nanometer chips enlarged volumes to satisfy the market. Intel’s lead in the chip industry is based on its ability to deliver cheaper and faster microprocessors.

Speaker

Well, one of the key things that Intel does very well is what’s called Design for Manufacturability and the key there is to make sure that the product design and the process manufacturing technology are able to work together and produce high yielding, high quality products and because we’re an integrated device manufacturer, we do the design in-house, we do the process development in-house, we’re able to do a really good job at Design for Manufacturability up front and produce these chips in high volume.

Jason Lopez – PodTech

Metal gate and High-K gate oxide only atoms thick are more electrically efficient helping to reduce heat and power lost from leakage and improving transistor performance by 20%. The idea to use new materials has been around for more than a decade, but the technologies to deploy them were developed by hundreds of engineers over the past few years.

Kelin Kuhn – Intel

Okay so, if you think about how we build gate oxides, historically, we’ve used very simple silicon dioxide materials basically glass, and as we’ve developed our technology expertise over the years we started doing very elegant things to this glass to make ever better oxides basically the gate of the transistor.

When we introduced the Intel 45 nanometer process we moved a hafnium-based material as a radically different way of resolving our gate leakage issues and so it’s a very novel material system that’s intrinsic to the type of leakage improvements we see. Chip design was simple once and we don’t do that anymore. It’s complicated now because we already did the simple stuff that’s my humorous answer, but I think in today’s world if you look at a modern microprocessor. We’re talking hundreds of millions of transistors and it’s incomprehensible that humans can build this to be honest.

Every time we have a success in the fab. I sit back and look at this and we’re looking at devices that are one-tenth the wavelength of light. Little tinnie winnie devices and humans can build these very complicated things and if you think about it, a yielding dye in our process technology means every single transistor worked. Every single one of those 100 million transistors worked and that’s when we sell them. Can you believe it? Humans can actually make something where every single one of a hundred million plus devices worked, it’s remarkable, and we don’t do it as individuals, we do it as an international team.

Speaker

We had the fly of the wafers to Arizona, get them assembled and then fly them back to Folsom, California in order to actually test them.

Jason Lopez – PodTech

So, what was the feeling of the team when you booted up that first OS?

Speaker

I would say one word it was ‘Euphoria’. The team was just tremendously excited. When you considered a number of people involved in the two-and-a-half years that culminated in this boolean of major Operating System with Penryn, it was an awesome feeling.

Jason Lopez – PodTech

Is that simply because it worked or is it because a number of things work?

Speaker

Yeah, it really represents the fact that a number of things worked. Coming out of reset is not so monumentous as say (Inaudible) up to boot Windows XP, or Windows Vista or Linux because there is a lot of functionality that has to be working to reach that level of capability. So, the team was obviously excited for that. All this happened around. I believe we booted around 3:30 in the morning and there was just a lot of adrenalin in the lab at that time and this is a lot of excitement.

Jason Lopez – PodTech

It’s like a moon shot only you didn’t have the big screen looking.

Speaker

Yeah, you could say that. Maybe on a smaller scale, but yeah, that’s equivalent to us on the engineering team as our moon shot.

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