Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3-D transistors

Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3-D transistors

Summary: Silicon wafers historically have been two dimensional. Intel on Wednesday changed all of that with 3-D transistors, dubbed Tri-Gate.

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Silicon wafers historically have been two dimensional. Intel on Wednesday changed all of that with 3-D transistors, dubbed Tri-Gate. The aim: Ensure that Moore's Law, which dictates that transistor density doubles every two years, keeps chugging along.

These 3-D transistors are in-production technology and are expected to be used in handhelds as well as servers (statement). The 3-D transistors will be the crux of a range of 22 nanometer processors---code named Ivy Bridge. Ivy Bridge will be ready for production at the end of the year.

These 3-D-based chips will first hit servers, desktops and laptops; Atom-based products will come later. Intel didn't detail exact delivery targets, but later this year is likely. The company said it expects it will have a three-year lead on rivals.

Intel first detailed 3-D transistors in 2002, and now these chips will hit the market. The general idea is to pack more computing cycles with lower power. For Intel, which demonstrated a 22nm chip, 3-D chips will allow it to move into more markets such as cars, medical devices and other devices.

At a press conference in San Francisco, Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president of Intel's Architecture Group, said the company's move will push higher performance onto smaller devices. Devices will require "ever-increasing performance" whether you're talking servers in a data center or tablets.

Intel executives were asked about whether they can break into smartphones and tablets vs. ARM.

Perlmutter said:

"I'm not going to go into big details. This will keep us extremely competitive in traditional space and help us to move ahead farther than the ARM ecosystem."

He added that 22nm and Tri-Gate transistors will be "a wonderful tool" as the company tries to enter the smartphone and tablet market. Perlmutter added that there are "things we are trying to penetrate" and that Intel will be very competitive with ARM. Nevertheless, Perlmutter downplayed the architecture issue between x86 and ARM architecture.

It was clear that smartphone and tablet chips were all anyone wanted to talk about. Intel said it will outline more on this front at its analyst meeting.

3-D transistors have been touted by scientists for years, but the difference here is that Intel will use them in volume. Intel executives said that the company will begin revamping its plants in Arizona, Oregon and Israel to produce these 3-D chips.

In a nutshell, Intel is giving transistors "fins," which allow it to pack more power in a tight spot. Intel noted that it couldn't merely continue to shrink processors and keep Moore's Law going.

Intel likened the Tri-Gate transistors to skyscrapers, which allowed developers to optimize space by moving upward.

Among the key points:

  • 3-D Tri-Gate transistors will operate at lower voltage with less leakage. The upshot is that performance will improve.
  • Chip designers will be able to pick fins and choose transistors for low power or performance.
  • 22nm Tri-Gate transistors will use less than half the power at the same performance as 2-D 32nm chips.
  • These 3-D transistors have a 10x lower depletion rate.
  • Applied to a CPU, you can have a lower clock rate with the same performance as higher speeds.

Topics: Intel, Hardware, Processors

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  • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

    You make it sound like science but I know it is magic.
    DarthCyclist
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @DarthCyclist
      Yes, Intel recruits almost exclusively from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
      djrraz1
    • Why not a .....

      @DarthCyclist

      miracle? ;-)
      Economister
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @DarthCyclist

      LOL :D Nice!
      bitcrazed
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @DarthCyclist

      If it's magic it will surely appear in some "magical" Apple product.
      thofts
    • Clarke's Third Law

      @DarthCyclist Well, Arthur C. Clarke did say that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." And it would only be a miracle if it involves magnets.
      Third of Five
    • 3D is accurate, Tri-gate implies a Tetrode transistor!

      @DarthCyclist
      I wish they'd stop with the marketing hype!
      (Kinda like implying that a volume knob is some sort of new fangled "noise reduction" circuitry! LOL
      kd5auq
  • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

    I was considering AMD Fusion with BD cores for my laptop next year. This seems unlikely now.
    anono
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @anono Why? This is just a press release, probably timed just so a fence-sitter will wait to see what materializes. Intel claims all sorts of stuff all the time. They've been on a roll lately, true enough. But remember what happened to the Larrabee GPU? http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news/2009/12/intels-larrabee-gpu-put-on-ice-more-news-to-come-in-2010.ars
      djchandler
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @anono You have to wait to see what BD does before making any decisions.
      Jimster480
  • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

    Terminators coming soon...
    gumby_456
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @gumby_456@...

      Yup. By the way, a Skynet candidate way back 2008: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/24405.wss . I believe they are stocking coltan now: http://terminator.wikia.com/wiki/Coltan
      Presler
  • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

    They're already here...
    LonMcClure
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @LonMcClure
      Wouldn't Stress about Terminators ... They are running M$crosoft Op system.. they will surely self Terminate..
      snafu69
      • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

        @snafu69

        True, they couldn't run Apple OS. They'd be too expensive and only target 30% of the humans out there for elimination.
        kurt_savikko
      • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

        @kurt_savikko
        You, sir, win one Internet.

        This technology is seriously awesome, though. So glad I didn't touch my mobo and CPU in my last upgrade. Anything I bought would have been put to shame! I generally dislike Intel in favor of AMD, but I have to admit, Intel's had the scientific edge by a wide margin the last couple years. I tried to read a white paper on the Sandy Bridge technology and it almost melted my brain. And then they come out with something like this which is even more complicated. We've definitely reached the "indistinguishable from magic" point.
        deramin9
  • 3D Transistors.....

    .......all the more power for Microsoft to bog down in bloatware!
    NWLB
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @NWLB Hum didn't see MS mentioned anywhere in the article...
      ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @NWLB troll.
      timspublic1
    • RE: Intel: Moore's Law has been cubed; Welcome to 3D transistors

      @NWLB

      I see the fish hook come flying through the air! Hmmm, shiny!
      boomchuck1