In what it touts as being the most significant technological announcement of the year, Intel this morning unveiled its “3D” transistor to the world – one that can dramatically improve both power efficiency and performance. Though considered “3D”, the official name is “Tri-Gate”, and that refers to the fact that the “source” and “drain” current throughput are based on a literal 3D design, where a “fin” is raised and can affect the gate on three sides, rather than just one, as seen in normal planar designs.
On the surface, this seems like a rather simple change, but according to some of the biggest names in the biz, such as Gordon Moore, the technology is nothing short of revolutionary. He states, “This change in the basic structure is a truly revolutionary approach, and one that should allow Moore’s Law, and the historic pace of innovation, to continue.“
The major goals of tri-gate was to maximize the current flow while a transistor is in its “on” state, and minimize the flow while in its “off” state. Further, tri-gate also maximizes the efficiency of transitioning the transistor between its on and off states, again improving performance and efficiency. According to Intel, this tri-gate design can net a performance increase of 37% when compared to its current-gen 32nm processors, and can result in a power reduction of 50%.
Transistors are not the easiest thing to understand, but to help ease the pain, Intel has produced a rather humorous video featuring Intel Fellow Mark Bohr, who gets shrunk down 20,000x to make better comparisons to why tri-gate is better than current (no pun) planar designs. In addition, at the URL below, you can find a mass of related documentation that should fulfill every lingering question you may have.
The key takeaway from today’s announcement is that this product is a go. It’s not an example of what can be done, but rather is the proof of what we’ll be seeing in future processors and other chips from Intel, starting with the 22nm Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge’s successor.
SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 4, 2011 – Intel Corporation today announced a significant breakthrough in the evolution of the transistor, the microscopic building block of modern electronics. For the first time since the invention of silicon transistors over 50 years ago, transistors using a three-dimensional structure will be put into high-volume manufacturing. Intel will introduce a revolutionary 3-D transistor design called Tri-Gate, first disclosed by Intel in 2002, into high-volume manufacturing at the 22-nanometer (nm) node in an Intel chip codenamed “Ivy Bridge.” A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.