SAN JOSE, Calif. -- At next week's International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco, Calif., Intel Corp. is expected to extend its lead over AMD, IBM and other microprocessor vendors in the high-k/metal-gate race.
In a paper, Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.) will describe a new 45-nm derivative for system-on-a-chip (SOC) designs based on high-k/metal-gate technology. In addition, the chip giant will provide more details about its previously-announced, 32-nm process, based on a second-generation, high-k/metal-gate architecture. And, Intel will talk about a quantum well field effect transistor technology.
It is also working on its 22-nm technology, which is in R&D. While it did not elaborate on this technology, the company acknowledged that it may end up processing its 22-nm designs using 193-nm immersion scanners, meaning extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography is late to the party--again.
Regarding two other key technologies--high-k and metal-gates--a big question remains: Can Intel's competitors catch up? To date, Intel's main rival, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), has announced its 45-nm processors, but the devices reportedly do not use a high-k/metal-gate scheme.
AMD's technology partner, IBM Corp., does not expect to have its high-k/metal-gate solution until the 32-nm node, reportedly causing some angst in the market. IBM's ''fab club'' is using a gate-first approach to high-k and metal gates, while Intel is deploying a rival replacement-gate technology.
For some time, Intel has already shipped 45-nm processors based on the technology, giving it an edge in the market. High-k and metal gates are key building blocks for scaling and reducing the leakage within the critical gate stack, enabling the next-generation transistor.
High-k uses a material called hafnium to replace the transistor's silicon dioxide gate dielectric, which is running out of gas in today's designs. Also on the transistor, a metal material replaces the polysilicon gate electrode of NMOS and PMOS structures.
Despite an endless parade of claims made by vendors, high-k/metal-gate technology is much harder to develop than previously thought. IBM's ''fab club'' is reportedly wrestling with the technology, while the foundries will not deploy the scheme until the 32- or 28-nm nodes.
With the exception of Intel, ''nobody else is shipping high-k yet,'' said Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration. ''We have more than a one generation lead in technology,'' Bohr told EE Times.
At IEDM, Intel will present several papers on the subject, including at 32-nm. As far back as late-2007, the chip giant rolled out its initial 32-nm test chip. The device has a 0.171-micron2 cell size containing more than 1.9 billion transistors.
Then, in October of 2008, the company tipped its 32-nm process. As reported, the process incorporates copper interconnects, a second-generation high-k/metal-gate technology and a fourth-generation strained-silicon scheme.
Intel is expected to deploy its first immersion lithography scanners at 32-nm. The 193-nm machines will be sole sourced from Nikon Corp. (Tokyo).
The transistors feature dual band-edge workfunction metal gates and high-k gate dielectrics with an equivalent oxide thickness (EOT) of 9-nm or 9 angstroms. In comparison, the company's 45-nm high-k designs have an EOT of 10-nm. The 32-nm version enables Intel to reduce transistor variability,'' Bohr said.
At 32-nm, Intel's transistor gate pitch is 112.5-nm. Intel's 32-nm logic technology provides about 70 percent linear feature size scaling and 50 percent area scaling, as compared to the company's 45-nm process. In addition, the process enables the highest drive currents reported to date for 32-nm technology.
Intel is on track for 32-nm production readiness in Q4 2009. Meanwhile, the company is also working on its 22-nm process. The technology will make use of 193-nm immersion scanners with either double-patterning or computational lithography techniques, he said. For 22-nm, EUV ''probably won't be ready,'' he said.