IBM, Partners Look to Challenge Intel's Processor Manufacturing

At the start of the 2008 Intel Developer Forum, IBM, AMD, Freescale, STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering announced that they have developed the first 22-nanometer SRAM memory chips. These SRAM chips are the precursors to 22-nm microprocessors. IBM and its partners are looking to take the lead against Intel processors, which are expected to shrink to 32 nm in 2009.

IBM and five research partners have announced that they have created a method for developing SRAM memory cells on a 22-nanometer manufacturing method that will eventually lead to the creation of 22-nm microprocessors.

IBM and its five partners-Advanced Micro Devices, Freescale Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics, Toshiba, and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University of Albany in New York-announced the development on Aug. 18.

Intel, the world's other large microprocessor company, is expected to talk about new manufacturing methods at its 2008 Developer Forum in San Francisco, which starts Aug. 19.

The move toward 22-nm processors is considered essential as devices, from cell phones to notebooks, continue to shrink and customers and IT buyers demand more from microprocessors, including chips that use less power and offer more battery life for these new types of mobile devices.

Right now, commercial processors are being built on 45-nm technology that Intel has developed. Intel is expected to shrink its chips to 32 nm in 2009 and then to 22 nm in 2011. At the 2008 IDF, Intel will detail its Nehalem processors, which are built on 45-nm manufacturing and use new microarchitecture.

IBM and a number of other technology partners are also working on creating 32-nm processors.

The SRAM (static RAM) memory cells that IBM and its partners announced Aug. 18 are the first step in developing the more complex microprocessors that are used in PCs and other devices such as cell phones. IBM said it has created an SRAM cell at 22 nm-a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter-that uses six transistors.

The first of these SRAM memory cells were produced at IBM's 300-millimeter research facility in Albany, N.Y. According to an IBM statement, the memory cells were developed through a method by which, "researchers utilized high-NA immersion lithography to print the aggressive pattern dimensions and densities and fabricated the parts in a state-of-the-art 300mm semiconductor research environment."

IBM is expected to detail the new 22-nm SRAM cells at the IEEE International Electron Devices meeting in December.