LONDON IBM and its partners in the race to develop and ship high-k dielectrics and metal gates for the 32-nm node have officially revealed their process and are claiming they can now outperform the rest of the industry in performance and power consumption.
The group which includes Infineon Technologies AG , ST Microelectronics NV, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, Freescale , Samsung Electronics and Toshiba Corporation demonstrated their performance breakthrough on silicon manufactured at IBM's 300-mm semiconductor fab in East Fishkill, NY.
They claim the circuits had, on average, 35 per cent better performance than 45-nm technology circuits at the same operating voltage. The 32-nm also consumed between 30 to 50 per cent less power than the 45-nm, with respect to operating voltage.
The group also said testing on product library test chip and industry standard microprocessor critical paths has shown performance improvements of up to 40 percent over conventional (Poly/SiON) technology at the same technology dimensions.
The companies said the technology will be available to IBM and its alliance partners in the second half of 2009 and said its customers and clients can start designing devices using the process immediately.
High-k and metal gates are key building blocks for scaling and enabling the next-generation transistor. But the technologies' complexity raises questions about whether foundries can ramp production with high-k materials and metal gates in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Vice president for IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center, Gary Patton, said that the latest results show that "as our collective client base moves to next-generation technology by using the 'gate-first' approach, they will continue to maintain a significant competitive advantage."
Rival foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is quietly readying its own high-k/metal gate technology but has not announced a timetable for release. TSMC has said its general 32-nm process is slated for "risk production" by the third or fourth quarter of 2009.
IBM says that silicon support for low-power 32-nm HKMG technology will be available in the third quarter of 2008, and that the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering has just completed feasibility results showing that the process can also be extended to 22nm.
Other leading-edge foundries, including Fujitsu, Semiconductor International Manufacturing Corp. (SMIC), Toshiba and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), are separately developing high-k/metal-gate solutions.
Thus far, only Intel Corp. and NEC Electronics Inc. have announced they are shipping logic devices equipped with high-k materials. Intel is shipping processors based on high-k and metal gates at the 45-nm node. NEC has delivered ASICs based on high-k at 55 nm.
In January 2007, the IBM alliance used high-k/metal gate in a portion of the transistor that controls its primary on/off switching function, and this is what lead to the development of the smaller, faster, and more power-efficient 32-nm circuitry.
Director of Process Technology at Freescale, Dirk Wrister, noted that " this early design and modeling work indicates that the high-k/metal gate technology is going to deliver a significant product and performance differentiation. These early results are a significant step in the demonstration of high-k/metal gate viability in 32nm technology."