A Renaissance for Chip Technologies

New chip and transistor breakthroughs are arriving from AMD, Intel and IBM.

The end of 2001 is turning out to be a banner period for semiconductor technologies. On the heels of an announcement from Intel that it has perfected a promising new manufacturing process for transistors, Adavanced Micro Devices Inc. and IBM have also announced chip-manufacturing breakthroughs.

AMD has built a Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) transistor that, AMD claims, achieves the fastest switching speeds ever seen in the chip industry. The new device is a 15-nanometer gate length (.015-micron), 0.8-volt prototype for transistors that AMD will build into future processors. Its designed to handle switching speeds of 3.3 trillion switches per second. By 2009, AMD researchers foresee using a 30-nanometer process on 300-mm wafers, with exponentially faster switching speeds.

Craig Sander, vice president of AMDs technology development group, said: "This look-ahead research gives us confidence in our long-term roadmaps and strategies, while providing spin-off technology that feeds our near-term development program."

As part of AMDs announcement, the company claimed that its new design would usher in twenty-fold increases in the number of transistors per chip and a ten-fold increase in microprocessor performance by the end of this decade. The specifics of the design are slated to be announced this week at the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in Washington D.C.

The announcement from AMD comes only a few days after Intels announcement that its new TeraHertz transistor is optimized to reduce power consumption and heat dissipation, paving the way for exponentially more powerful chips. The new design from Intel will also be discussed at the IEDM meeting in Washington D.C.

IBM has also announced that it has a new transistor design that will boost performance and reduce power consumption. The companys new "double-gate" transistor is touted to be smaller and faster than todays transistors, and reportedly takes advantage of specialized insulation technology to reduce heat and energy dissipation.