Next Intel Chips Will Have the World’s First ‘3D’ Transistors

Intel will begin high-volume manufacturing of chips featuring the world’s first three-dimensional transistor, the company said Wednesday.

“The gains these transistors provide are really unprecedented,” said Bill Holt, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s technology Manufacturing Group at a press conference in San Francisco.

Intel will introduce its 3D transistor design, called Tri-Gate, as it transitions to its next-generation, 22-nanometer silicon manufacturing process at the end of this year and through 2012, Holt said. Tri-Gate transistors will be used in all of Intel’s product lines, from high-end server chips to the tiny, low-power processors that go into mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, including the Atom embedded processor. The 3D transistor will be a standard part of Intel’s 22-nm process, and its factories will be upgraded to support the new technology, executives said.

The first 22-nm chips are codenamed “Ivy Bridge” and are set for high-volume production before the end of 2011 with a scheduled product release early in 2012. Intel demonstrated working Ivy Bridge chips in a notebook, desktop and a dual-core, single-processor server at the San Francisco event.

What’s a 3D transistor?

Although a traditional transistor is built three dimensionally, it operates in a “planar” fashion, moving electrons across two dimensions.

Tri-Gate transistors form conducting channels on three sides of a vertical “fin” structure, a major advance from the planar design of transistors in use for the past 50 years, the company said. The three-dimensional structure of the next-generation transistors allows chips to operate at lower voltage with lower leakage, Intel executives said.

In other words, the electrons go “up, left, and down,” said Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager for the Intel Architecture Group, at an event in San Francisco Wednesday.

Intel said its upcoming 22-nm chips will enjoy a 37 percent performance gain running at low power as compared with the company’s current-generation 32-nm chips featuring planar transistors. The new chips also provide a 50 percent power reduction at constant performance, improved switching characteristics and a higher drive current for a given transistor footprint. “We’ve never achieved that any kind of performance gain on anyt previous technology,” Bohr said.

What this means for your PC

What will this mean for the PC? Intel’s second-generation Core i7 processors top out at 3.4 GHz, although some of Intel’s server chips can run faster. Perlmutter said that the improved transistor will result in improved processor performance, although he declined to say whether clock frequency would be increased as a consequence. Users should also expect Intel’s notebook chips to run at even lower power consumption at the same clock speed, potentially extending battery life further.

All those benefits do come at a price, though not a terribly steep one. Silicon wafers with Tri-Gate transistors will cost from 2 to 3 percent more to fabricate than traditional wafers featuring planar transistors, said Mark Bohr, an Intel senior fellow who spoke at the event.

Intel’s 3-D Tri-Gate transistors enable chips to operate at lower voltage with lower leakage, providing an unprecedented combination of improved performance and energy efficiency compared to previous state-of-the-art transistors. The capabilities give chip designers the flexibility to choose transistors targeted for low power or high performance, depending on the application.

The 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate transistors provide up to 37 percent performance increase at low voltage versus Intel’s 32-nm planar transistors. This incredible gain means that they are ideal for use in small handheld devices, which operate using less energy to “switch” back and forth. Alternatively, the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2-D planar transistors on 32-nm chips.

Intel first demonstrated a single-fin Tri-Gate transistor in 2002. Just shy of a decade later, the chip maker will introduce the first chips featuring its 3D transistor technology in a server chip due out before the end of the year.

Bohr said Intel could enjoy a three-year lead on competitors with its Tri-Gate transistors. Semiconductor manufacturers planning on introducing 3D transistor technology likely won’t do so until they move past the 22nm process node to 14nm several years out, he said. Intel’s Tri-Gate process is also extensible to the 14nm manufacturing node.

“This general structure is well known in the industry. But the challenge is to make it manufacture-able,” Bohr said.

Executives at AMD deferred comment to their manufacturing partner, GlobalFoundries, which didn’t have any immediate comment.

For the Atom, too

Perlmutter added that the Tri-Gate technology will be used on the Atom chip, Intel’s plan to attack mobile devices with Intel silicon. That strategy has struggled, as the Mobile Internet Device category has yet to catch on, and tablets and phones have generally used low-power embedded chips based on ARM designs. But Perlmutter said that users and OEMs should expect Intel to apply its “tick-tock” manufacturing strategy to the Atom processor, following up a new revision of the design with a mnaufacturing improvement that increases clock speeds.

“We think improved process technology is necessary to compete across the market, not just in the PC,” Perlmutter said. He didn’t say whether the transistor would be also used in chipsets or other logic chips that Intel manufactures.

“I think we’re going to be extremely competitive versus what an ARM can do,” Perlmutter added, when asked about comparative performance.

Intel’s transition to 22-nm technology later this year will be the next milestone in the company’s Moore’s Law-driven march towards ever-smaller silicon transistors that boost the performance and efficiency of each new generation of microprocessors.

“For years we have seen limits to how small transistors can get,” said Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, in a statement. “This change in the basic structure is a truly revolutionary approach, and one that should allow Moore’s Law, and the historic pace of innovation, to continue.”


Intel’s New Tri-Gate Ivy Bridge Transistors: 9 Things You Need to Know

Intel announced today that its upcoming Ivy Bridge processing platform, which will be based on a 22-nm version of its second-generation Core (aka Sandy Bridge) microarchitecture, will also utilize a new transistor technology called Tri-Gate.

The company says that Tri-Gate transistors, the first to be truly three-dimensional, mark a major change in the way the industry has done things for 40 years, and could revolutionize it. Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the most important facts and figures about Tri-Gate transistors, and what they will mean for PCs in 2011 and beyond.

1.) Tri-Gate explained. The Tri-Gate technology gets its name from the fact that transistors using it have conducting channels that are formed on all three sides—two on each side, one across the top—of a tall and narrow silicon fin that rises vertically from the silicon substrate. On a traditional two-dimensional, or “planar,” transistor, the gate runs just across the top. But on the vertical fin, transistors can be packed closer together. This provides enough extra control to allow more transistor current to flow when the transistor is on, almost zero when it is off, and gives the transistor the ability to switch quickly between the two states. This maximizes both power usage and performance.

2.) Why? According to Intel, Tri-Gate was implemented because it would not have been possible to continue Moore’s law at 22nm and below without a major transistor redesign. With Tri-Gate transistors, Intel claims to have extended Moore’s law at least another two years.

3.) How small is it? A nanometer is one-billionth of an meter. That means that more than 6 million 22nm Tri-Gate transistors could be crammed into the period at the end of this sentence. By contrast, a human hair is approximately 100,000 nanometers wide.

4.) How much? (And how little?) Intel estimates that Tri-Gate transistors are 37 percent faster than those used in the current 32nm process and will effect an active power reduction of more than 50 percent, but will only add 2 to 3 percent to the cost of a finished wafer.

5.) Some upgrades required. Intel will need to make upgrades to its factories over 2011 and 2012 to get them ready for producing the large quantities of 22-nm chips necessary to drive its many devices for the near future. (To give you an idea of the scale, Intel’s factories currently produce about five billion transistors every second—or 150 quadrillion per year.) The company says, however, that the actual changes being implemented will not be more significant than have been required for previous process improvements.

6.) How long will it last? Representing the latest “tick” in Intel’s two-stage development cycle (the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture was the most recent “tock”), these Ivy Bridge innovations will be around in some form for at least the next two years. But Intel promises that the technology will be able to scale to its next production process, at 14-nm, so don’t be surprised if it extends well beyond that.

7.) Tri-Gate is not new. Intel research scientists first invented the Tri-Gate in 2002, but it’s taken them until now to get chips using it ready for high-volume production.

8.) Where will you see this technology? Intel says that Ivy Bridge–based processors are ideal for both servers and clients, the latter particularly in thin-and-light form factors (such as desktops and nettops), and that the technology is expected to scale to Intel’s Atom line of CPUs as well, allowing for their usage in an even broader range of systems. But with such low power usage, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices would seem to be not just possible, but likely. (Unfortunately, Intel isn’t yet saying when these will hit the market, although devices that don’t necessarily require a carrier – such as tablets – will likely be first.)

9.) When will Ivy Bridge arrive? You can expect to see processors and devices using them by the end of 2011, with product shipping in early 2012.




Chip Ivy Bridge của Intel hỗ trợ DirectX 11, PCIe 3.0


Intel đã cho biết một số tính năng trong các chip Core sắp tới dựa trên kiến trúc chip Ivy Bridge, giúp tăng hiệu năng ứng dụng và cải tiến đồ họa cho PC.

Dự kiến PC dùng chip Ivy Bridge sẽ được tung ra trong năm tới. Ivy Bridge sẽ hỗ trợ DirectX 11 của Microsoft. Trong đoạn video đăng tải trên website của công ty, kỹ sư phần mềm Phil Taylor của Intel cho biết, DirectX 11 sẽ mang lại thêm độ sâu và tính chân thực cho đồ họa. Chip cũng sẽ thể hiện đồ họa tốt hơn thông qua các khả năng xử lý hậu kỳ và tạo bóng (shade).

Các bộ xử lý (BXL) Ivy Bridge sẽ kế tiếp họ Sandy Bridge của các BXL Core hiện nay. Chip Sandy Bridge đang được sử dụng trong những MTXT, máy tính để bàn mới được công bố gần đây. Với Sandy Bridge, lần đầu tiên Intel tích hợp CPU và BXL đồ họa (GPU) bên trong một chip đơn duy nhất. Ivy Bridge dựa trên “bộ khung” của Sandy Bridge, nhưng sẽ được chế tạo bằng quy trình sản xuất 22nm mới.

Các chip Sandy Bridge hiện tại hỗ trợ DirectX 10.1, khiến Intel bị “tụt hậu” so với Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Các BXL Fusion dòng C và E của AMD (phát hành trong tháng 1/2011) đã tích hợp hỗ trợ DirectX 11. Ivy Bridge cũng sẽ bao gồm những lệnh (instruction) được cập nhật để tăng cường đồ họa và hiệu năng ứng dụng.

Những PC dùng chip Ivy Bridge cũng sẽ được tăng băng thông bằng cách hỗ trợ giao thức PCI Express (PCIe) 3.0 mới. Chuẩn bus PCIe 3.0 (hoàn thành hồi tháng 11/2010) có thể truyền dữ liệu ở tốc độ 8 gigatransfer/giây (GT/s), tăng 60% so với các đặc tả trước đó. PCIe 3.0 cho phép các thành phần bên trong hệ thống liên lạc với nhau nhanh hơn.

Hôm thứ Tư 13/4/2011, phát biểu tại Diễn đàn Nhà phát triển Intel (IDF) tại Bắc Kinh (Trung Quốc), ông Kirk Skaugen, Phó chủ tịch kiêm Tổng giám đốc Nhóm Trung tâm Dữ liệu của Intel cho biết, USB 3.0 cũng sẽ được đưa vào các PC dựa trên Ivy Bridge. Theo ông Taylor, Ivy Bridge sẽ bao gồm hỗ trợ cho mạch ghép nối đa phương tiện HDMI 1.4a. Các thiết bị đa phương tiện bên ngoài như TV độ nét cao có thể được kết nối với PC thông qua cáp HDMI.