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Intel to bring 3D transistors to next-generation chips

Agam Shah | May 4, 2011
Intel has advanced its chip manufacturing technology with three-dimensional transistors that could make PCs, smartphones and tablets faster and more power-efficient.

The 3D transistor technology is an obscure detail, but the development is significant, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

"We tend to lose sight that this high-level stuff ... is tied to getting the transistor right," McCarron said.

The 3D structure allows Intel to build more contact areas on smaller transistors, which enables more current to flow, McCarron said. That is key to scaling transistor performance.

The odds of having a defect on a chip goes up as things are added vertically, McCarron said.

"The fact that they are going into volume production means it has been perfected. The challenge for them is to make the choices to get there," McCarron said.

Intel advances its manufacturing process every two years, which helps make chips smaller and drives raw system performance while using less power. The first chips to use the 22-nm process will be Core chips for desktops and PCs built on a microarchitecture code-named Ivy Bridge. The Ivy Bridge chips will have new features, including hardware support for the latest DirectX 11 graphics technology.

Intel has also said it would release 22-nm processors for tablets in 2013.

Intel in October last year announced it would invest between $6 billion and $8 billion to manufacture new chips for PCs, smartphones, consumer electronics and embedded devices. Some of those funds will be spent on upgrading factories to make chips using the new 22-nm process. In addition, Intel in February this year also announced it would invest $5 billion to build a new chip manufacturing facility in Arizona, which is expected to be completed by 2013.


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