Intel Shows Off Three-Dimensional Transistors: Moore’s Law is Safe

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Today, Intel made public the fact that they had discovered how to build 3D transistors, widely considered to soon become a necessity for chipmakers as they approach the point at which the physical size of the processors put their continued steady advancement at risk.

Gordon Moore was a co-founder of Intel back in 1968. His eponymous law states generally that the number of transistors that can be placed within a set physical space doubles roughly every two years. Critics and doomsayers like to trot up the idea that Moore’s Law is dead, and that chipmakers won’t be able to overcome whatever setback is troubling chip development at the time.

This latest advancement is further proof of the durability of Moore’s Law, which clearly has life left in its prediction. Intel calls the new breakthrough Tri-Gate, representing the third dimension through which the transistor can shuffle electrons. In contemporary transistors, a gate sits on the top. With the new Tri-Gate technology, the transistor still only has two states – on and off – but it can switch between them more quickly and more effectively, which increase chip performance while simultaneously decreasing the power requirements.

Mark Bohr, Intel Senior Fellow: “The performance gains and power savings of Intel’s unique 3-D Tri-Gate transistors are like nothing we’ve seen before. This milestone is going further than simply keeping up with Moore’s Law. 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.” 

Tri-Gate’s power savings could be a boon for mobile devices. Battery technology has not kept pace with mobile technology advancement, and any power savings could substantially extend the usable periods for these devices. Intel has clearly been working on the new transistor technology for a long time, keeping the breakthrough tightly under wraps. The first new processors to take advantage of Tri-Gate through limited and selective usage are the new codenamed “Ivy Bridge” CPUs, which will start shipping in quantity later this year. 

 

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