Chip maker Intel has announced a significant breakthrough in the evolution of the transistor, the microscopic building block of the microprocessor.
For the first time since the invention of silicon transistors more than 50 years ago, transistors using a three-dimensional structure will be put into high-volume manufacturing.
To do so, Intel will deploy a 3D transistor design called Tri-Gate into high-volume manufacturing in an Intel chip, codenamed ’Ivy Bridge’.
The three-dimensional transistors represent a fundamental departure from the two-dimensional planar transistor structures that have powered computers up until now.
The traditional ’flat’ two-dimensional planar gate has been replaced with a thin three-dimensional silicon fin that rises up vertically from the silicon substrate.
Control of the current through the transistor is accomplished by implementing a gate on each of the three sides of the fin — two on each side and one across the top — rather than just one on top, as is the case with a 2D planar transistor.
The additional control enables as much transistor current flowing as possible when the transistor is in the ’on’ state and as close to zero as possible when it is in the ’off’ state, and enables the transistor to switch quickly between the two states.
The 22nm 3D Tri-Gate transistors provide up to a 37 per cent performance increase at low voltage versus Intel’s 32nm planar transistors. Alternatively, the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2D planar transistors on 32nm chips.