Intel Researchers Find New Element to Boost Chip Performance

The world’s largest computer chip maker, Intel Corp., wants to build faster and leaner chips in their effort to remain ahead of the game, this has made researchers at Intel try out new materials.

In its latest effort to boost the performance of chips, which are currently made of silicone, Intel researchers now have made inroads into replacing silicone with a compound semiconductor made from a blend of the elements Indium and Antimony.

Intel has been collaborating with Qinetiq Ltd, a UK based firm on the new design which it plans to launch in 2015 or later.

On Wednesday presenting a paper at IEDM in Washington, Intel said the efforts of its researchers will help in producing higher-performing, power-efficient chips during the latter half of the next decade.

Speaking on the occasion Rob Willoner, a technology analyst with Intel’s Technology and manufacturing Group said, “It’s a substantial improvement and we think it can be used for logic [or processors such as the Pentium] and provide some substantial improvements for end users. Imagine what 10 times less power [consumption] can do for notebook batteries or data centers.” He further added that it has the potential to increase future transistors’ performance by as much as 50% against that of its current state-of-the-art transistors.

To remain abreast of the market coming out with higher performing chips is essential for Intel as well as its competitors. But according to manufacturers it’s becoming more difficult, as power consumption of the chip is a crucial element, just doubling up the numbers of transistors every two years to boost the performance is not enough.

Rob Willoner further added that turning to the Indium and Antimony compound semiconductor “is another example of where we would be introducing new materials at the same time we continue to scale”. Apart from the Indium Antimonide, Intel is also working on numerous research projects simultaneously in an effort to have several options available such as carbon nanotubes when it comes to driving up performance of its chips. It’s expected that Intel will combine one or more of its research projects with its traditional scaling techniques to build speedier chips and maintain an edge on power consumption.

According to Willoner, Intel is considering replacing silicon in one piece of a potential future transistor; it expects to combine the new materials with silicon and to continue using that material as the basis for its chips for the foreseeable future. Intel is not alone in its race for innovation, on Tuesday AMD & IBM gave details of their progress in developing new chip manufacturing techniques to boost transistor performance, yet help limit power consumption, in chips with circuits knitted together at the 65-nanometer level and below.

A joint statement issued by both the companies, says that the technology developed by them offers a 40% increase in transistor performance, compared to chips made without their technology, at the same time maintaining a cap over power consumption and heat dissipation. Speaking on the occasion Nick Kepler, vice president of logic technology development at AMD, said “Our joint work on developing advanced process technologies continues to ensure that we can create and provide the highest-performance, lowest-power processors on the market”. AMD at its recently opened Fab 36 plant located in Dresden, Germany has started pilot production 65 nanometers and expects to begin full production in the latter half of 2006. IBM is also planning to shift its production line from 90-nanometer to 65-nanometer production.

In the mean time Intel has taken the lead as it is already shipping 65-nanometer chips, which includes a dual-core desktop processor named Presler.


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