Intel Announces Revolutionary 3D Transistors, 50%+ More Energy Efficient Than Previous Generation

Intel 22nm Transistor 3D photo

Photo: Intel press pic.

Made with Cutting Edge 22nm Process

Chipmaker behemoth Intel had a big announcement to make today. They've created a 3D transistor (as opposed to the current way of making chips, which treats transistors as 2D surfaces) that performs very well in portable electronics at low voltage (37% more energy efficient than the 2D transistors), and that just crushes the last generation as regular voltage ("the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2-D planar transistors on 32nm chips."). According to Intel, more than 6 million 22nm 3D transistors could fit in the period at the end of this sentence. Well, I guess it technically depends on your screen size and resolution, but let's not split hairs...

intel corei7 photo

This is the current generation of Intel CPU. The next one will have the 22nm 3D transistors. Photo: Wikipedia, CC

Intel's 3-D Tri-Gate transistors enable chips to operate at lower voltage with lower leakage, providing an unprecedented combination of improved performance and energy efficiency compared to previous state-of-the-art transistors. The capabilities give chip designers the flexibility to choose transistors targeted for low power or high performance, depending on the application.

The 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate transistors provide up to 37 percent performance increase at low voltage versus Intel's 32nm planar transistors. This incredible gain means that they are ideal for use in small handheld devices, which operate using less energy to "switch" back and forth. Alternatively, the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2-D planar transistors on 32nm chips.

"The performance gains and power savings of Intel's unique 3-D Tri-Gate transistors are like nothing we've seen before," said Mark Bohr, Intel Senior Fellow. "This milestone is going further than simply keeping up with Moore's Law. The low-voltage and low-power benefits far exceed what we typically see from one process generation to the next. It will give product designers the flexibility to make current devices smarter and wholly new ones possible. We believe this breakthrough will extend Intel's lead even further over the rest of the semiconductor industry."

There are always some energy efficiency benefits when going to a smaller manufacturing process (ie. from 32nm to 22nm), but this should be a bigger step forward. And since the CPU is generally the #1 or #2 biggest power hog in a computer, this breakthrough could make a pretty big difference.


An illustration of a 32nm transistor compared to a 22nm transistor. On the left side is the 32nm planar transistor in which the current (represented by the yellow dots) flows in a plane underneath the gate. On the right is the 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate transistor with current flowing on 3 sides of a vertical fin. Image: Intel

The first 22nm microprocessor with 3D transistors, codenamed "Ivy Bridge," is slated for high-volume production readiness by the end of this year.

See also: Intel #1 on National EPA Green Power List With 2.5 Billion kWhs

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Via Intel

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