IDF Spring 2007 Update (Part 1)

The Year of 45nm

The Year of 45nm

2007 will be the year when Intel begins its transition into 45nm process technology. Along with it, a whole slew of new products will hit the market, beginning with Intel's next generation "Penryn" processor family. The transition to 45nm, according to Intel, is a significant change to the way transistors are manufactured today as the entire transistor gate has been replaced with new silicon compatible materials.

In place of the silicon dioxide gate dielectric, Intel will use high-k Hafnium-based dielectric material. This replaces the ultra-thin silicon dioxide gate, which at 45nm, would be too thin (only a few atomic layers thick) to manufacture and unreliable. In addition to that, Intel switched the typical polysilicon gate to a full metal gate, giving it higher electrical conductivity that enables faster gate switching capabilities. These significant changes to the gate are expected to extend Moore's Law even further and it would be the materials of choice going further down into 32nm and below.

As with any transistor shrinkage, there would be significant improvement in the performance of the transistors. Already in its early sampling, Intel expects that processors built on the 45nm process would demonstrate more than 20% increase in performance and more than 10x reduction in gate leakage power. Gate leakage power reduction of 10x sounds impressive as this will determine how much heat the processor generates, and leakage is basically heat generated doing nothing. Thus, when the processor is idle and in low power state, you can expect very low heat output. In this case, we are hoping an ultra silent and cool processor.

 Justin Rattner, Intel Corporate Technology Officer, holds up a 45nm Penryn wafer during his keynote at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing on Tuesday.

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