Intel Keeps Moore”s Law Going: 3D Transistors

Posted on May 15, 2011 in Sci-Tech

By Rishabh Prasad:

Less than 20 years after the invention of the transistor by Shockley and his colleagues at Bell Labs, and less than five years after Bob Noyce and Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit, Gordon Moore drew a single line on a piece of paper and forever changed our future. It was a prediction of how integrated circuit complexity would evolve over the next decade. But soon this transformed into a challenge sowing the seeds for what was to become Silicon Valley. It was now regarded as a law applied to almost all advances in high technology. Bob and Gordon founded Intel a few years later. The people they hired and the devices they created followed Moore’s Law and altered the way that the world would technologically and economically evolve.

Silicon wafers have been two-dimensional since the beginning. Intel changed all of this with their announcement about 3D transistors — dubbed tri gate. It will help sustain the Moore’s Law which many had said was not sustainable in the long run. According to Intel, with Tri-Gate, the future of Moore’s Law remains safe for the years to come. The 3-D transistors will be the crux of a range of 22 nanometer processors–code named Ivy Bridge. Ivy Bridge will be ready for production at the end of the year. These 3-D-based chips will first hit servers, desktops and laptops. Atom-based products will come later.

In 2002, Intel announced that it had developed a novel three-dimensional design that will allow the manufacture of transistors that scale, perform, and address the leakage problem seen in two-dimensional planar transistors. The whole idea was to pack more computing cycles with lesser consumption of power. These transistors would enable chips to perform at a lower voltage, effectively decreasing power consumption. These transistors are based on 22nm technology and is said to offer almost 37% performance increase over Intel’s latest 32nm planar transistors. Thanks to its size, this chip would also be useful on small handheld devices.

Intel cites the example of skyscrapers and urban planners. Just like with skyscrapers, 3D transistors lets chip designers build “upwards”. This allows more transistors to be packed closer together — unlike in the case of the planar model where they took more surface area.

The company said it expects it will have a three-year lead on rivals. If Moore’s law kept on getting applied on the advances in the silicon industry, nobody can ever guess the extent of the diminishing size of the handheld devices we use today.