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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Intel Senior Fellow Mark Bohr with Tri-Gate

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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