IT & Network Infrastructure : Intel's 3D Tri-Gate Transistor Breakthrough: A Look Inside

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-05-05
 
 
 

Tri-Gate 3D Transistors: Low Power or High Performance

Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr, who's been working on the 3D transistors for a full decade, said the capabilities give chip designers the flexibility to choose transistors targeted for low power or high performance, depending on the application. "Of course, the Tri-Gates are very capable at both," Rohr said.

Tri-Gate 3D Transistors: Low Power or High Performance

Working on Vanishingly Small Nanometer Scales

This image shows the relative size of a typical chip (left) compared with a human hair (right), which is about 100,000 nanometers in diameter. Remember that a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. The Tri-Gate transistor is a mere 22 nanometers in size. A tiny representation of Bohr separates the two items.

Working on Vanishingly Small Nanometer Scales

Intels Standard 32nm Processors

The currently standard 32nm transistors Intel is now supplying to the world marketplace are designed to maximize the flow of electricity through a metal gateway (top, in silver color) while being able to turn the flow on and off more than 100 million times per second.

Intels Standard 32nm Processors

The Inner Workings of a 32nm Transistor

This image represents a 32nm transistor with the gateway closed (represented by the red color). See the previous slide to see the depiction of an open gateway. In normal use, a transistor gateway can open and close more than 100 million times per second.

The Inner Workings of a 32nm Transistor

A Few Nanometers Make a Difference

One might not think that a mere 10nm—the difference between 32nm- and 22nm-size transistors—make that much of a difference when sitting aboard the processor, but as you can see from this image, there are a lot more of the smaller transistors that can be placed in the honeycomb-like fixture on the chip.

A Few Nanometers Make a Difference

The 32nm Processor: On Its Way Out?

Face to face: The currently standard 32nm processor (left) is about to be replaced forever by the 22nm Tri-Gate (right).

The 32nm Processor: On Its Way Out?

Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr with Tri-Gate

Mark Bohr is depicted with an example of a Tri-Gate transistor.

Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr with Tri-Gate

Tri-Gate Transistors Cut Power Usage by Half

Intel claims that the Tri-Gate transistor uses only half as much power as the current 32nm product, and that this factor alone will be a major selling point when the new Ivy Bridge chips come out later this year.

Tri-Gate Transistors Cut Power Usage by Half

The Incredibly Shrinking Intel Processors

At the May 4 press event, Intel reviewed the eight-year-long road map for its new-generation processors, starting with its 90nm version (2003) and moving to 65nm (2005), 45nm (2007), 32nm (2009) and finally to the dawn of the 22nm Tri-Gate architecture (2011).

The Incredibly Shrinking Intel Processors

Tri-Gate in Cross Section

A cross-section look at the Tri-Gate shows the base of the silicon substrate, an oxide layer above that, and the gate, drain and power flow on top of the transistor. The channels of electricity on three sides of the vertical fin structure make up the 3D nature of the transistor.

Tri-Gate in Cross Section

Rocket Fuel