08/12/2005

Intel Presents 'Breakthrough' Transistor


Based on a new materials compound, Intel doesn’t expect the technology to be put into production until between 2015 and 2019.  But the technology could “provide significant benefits to end users,” said Rob Willoner, a technology analyst at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker.

“The main change from the current transistor is the introduction of a new material,” Willoner said.  The new semiconductor compound is called Indium Antimonide (InSb).  It has higher electron mobility, enabling transistors to switch faster and use less power than before, he said. Today’s transistors have silicon channels, but these new transistors would have a channel made from InSb.  This reduces the channel length to 85nm, the smallest ever, which improves the speed.

InSb is in a class of materials called III-V compound semiconductors which are in use today for a variety of discrete and small scale integrated devices such as radio-frequency amplifiers, microwave devices and semiconductor lasers, Intel said.

Intel is calling the use of this new compound for transistors a breakthrough. So far the material is not economical to use and the wafers are brittle.  The prototype that Intel has developed is made entirely from the new compound, but the company is looking to use it with a silicon substrate, according to Willoner.  Current research is focusing on this aspect of using the material.

“We have a lot of confidence in our ability to continue Moore’s law, doubling processor density every two years,” he said. “But we are no longer able to simply scale. It’s not that simple at all anymore. We are finding we have to redesign transistors and introduce new materials.”

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