May 4, 2011

Intel Unveils Next Generation Microprocessor

Intel unveiled its next generation of microprocessor technology code named Ivy Bridge On Wednesday.

The Ivy Bridge chips will use a 22-nanometer manufacturing process which packs transistors more densely than the current 32-nanometer system.

The company said it would use new Tri-Gate "3D" transistors, which will help the efficiency of power consumption.

"Intel's scientists and engineers have once again reinvented the transistor, this time utilizing the third dimension," Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini said in a statement. "Amazing, world-shaping devices will be created from this capability as we advance Moore's Law into new realms."

One of the main measures of the commercial processor industry's progress is the length of the transistor "gate," which is measured in nanometers.

A human hair is about 60,000 nanometers wide, and the current best microchip technology features a 32-nanometer gate.

Intel expects to begin commercial production of the new 22-nanometer microprocessors later this year.

Kaizad Mistry, Intel's 22-nanometer program manager, said the arrival of Tri-Gate transistors would make a big difference to consumer products.

"What it enables in the market is improved power efficiency - so better performance for the same battery life or lower battery life for the same performance," Mistry told BBC.

In microprocessor design, a conducting channel passes through a switching gate, which opens or closes.  Those channels have been "planar" or flat on the chip.

However, Intel's Tri-Gate system replaces the channels with 3D "fins."  Intel said the extra surface area made them more conductive, and able to work better on lower power.

The Ivy Bridge allows about twice as many transistors to be crammed into the same space as on 32 nanometer chips.

The 22-nanometer 3D Tri-Gate transistors provide up to 37 percent performance increase at low voltage versus Intel's 32-nanometer planar transistors.

Intel said that the gain means they are ideal for use in small handheld devices.

"The performance gains and power savings of Intel's unique 3-D Tri-Gate transistors are like nothing we've seen before," Mark Bohr, Intel Senior Fellow, said in a statement.

"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."

According to market analysts IDC, Intel currently accounts for about 80 percent of global microprocessor sales.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is its closest rival with a 19 percent share.


Image Caption: This image shows the vertical fins of Intel's revolutionary tri-gate transistors passing through the gates. Credit: Intel


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