SAN FRANCISCO -- Providing a sneak preview of its future technology roadmap, Intel Corp. here today will announce development of the world's fastest transistor--a building block device that will enable the company to build 10-GHz microprocessors by 2005.
In a technical paper presented at the International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM), Intel will describe its transistor, which is based on 0.07-micron design rules and capable of 0.5-picosecond switching speeds. The transistor is also said to be the world's smallest in terms of size and gate-oxide length.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant has developed this transistor in the laboratory, but the device will not become a commercially viable building block until 2005, said Rob Willoner, market analyst for the Technology and Manufacturing Group at Intel. "The transistor is a 0.07-micron device, which will move into production in 2005," Willoner said in an interview with SBN prior to the IEDM presentation.
The transistor provides a glimpse of the company's future microprocessor roadmap. "Every two years, we introduce a new [process technology]," Willoner said. "We also want to show that Moore's Law is valid until the middle of the decade."
The Intel official was referring to the popular axiom in the semiconductor business, which states that the transistor count in a device will double every 18 months. But other observers believe that chip makers must surpass the performance levels of Moore's Law in order to solve the bandwidth bottlenecks in the network.
In any event, Intel is on the fast track in chip design. At present, Intel's fastest processor--the new Pentium 4--is a 1.5-GHz chip based on a 0.18-micron process technology. The chip also boasts some 42 million transistors on the same device.
In 2001, the company plans to move production of ICs down to 0.13-micron process technology. In this technology node, Intel will also incorporate other new and advanced technologies, including copper-interconnects and low-k dielectrics. And by 2003, it hopes to take a step the next step in its technology target-0.1-micron.
Then, in 2005, it will move to 0.07-micron, enabling the company to develop processors at clock speeds of 10-GHz and beyond. "A [40-GHz processor] will be able to perform 400 million calculations in the blink of an eye," Willoner said "A 10-GHz processor will be able to perform supercomputer-like functions on a desktop for as little $1,500," he added.
Desktop computers with 10-GHz processors will open the door for a range of new and advanced functions, such as face recognition, natural language translation, among others, he added.
According to Intel, a 10-GHz processor will pack 400 million transistors on the same chip. Each transistor will have a 0.5-ps switching speeds. Propelled by 1-volt or below power supply, the transistor will also feature a gate-oxide length of 0.8-nm.
To achieve the 0.07-micron node, Intel re-iterated its plans to migrate from conventional optical lithography tools to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) technology. In fact, Intel is part of U.S.-based Extreme Ultraviolet LLC consortium, a group that is dedicated to develop this technology. The consortium also includes Motorola, Advanced Micro Devices, and U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories.