AMD announces latest transistor breakthrough

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) has developed a transistor with a gate length of 15 nanometers that can switch more than 3 trillion times per second, the company said Monday.

The AMD device is more than five times as compact as transistors in existing commercial chips, which have gate lengths of just under 100 nanometers (0.1 microns). The development of a transistor with 15-nanometer, or 0.015-micron, gate length is important if semiconductor manufacturing technology is to keep moving forward.

Transistor gate length is related to, but not equivalent to, the commonly used measure of process size. The most advanced current technology has a process size of 0.13 microns, which means the lines and spaces on the chip's surface are 0.13 microns apart. The transistor gate lengths must be shorter than that to fit inside the lines, and current commercial chips use devices with gate lengths of around 0.1 micron.

By creating a much smaller basic building block for chips, AMD's 15-nanometer transistor heralds the way towards the development of faster and more complex microprocessors.

AMD's new CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) transistor is, the company said, the fastest yet announced. The device will be detailed at the 2001 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Most current production roadmaps call for a switch to 0.10-micron process technology in the near future, followed by a jump to 0.07 microns, 0.05 microns and then, in 2009 or 2010, 0.03 microns. Development of a transistor with 0.015-micron gate length is the first step in commercialization of the 0.03-micron process.

Earlier this year at a conference in Japan, Intel Corp. said it had developed a transistor with a 0.02-micron gate length and hoped to have it in commercial products, most likely 0.05-micron process chips, by 2007.

At the IEDM conference Intel, AMD's largest rival, will talk about some of its work in adopting production technologies and processes to allow for the commercial manufacture of chips using such technology. Intel will propose the use of a new class of material, a High K gate dielectric, in place of the silicon oxide used today, to stop charge leakage from transistors at such small sizes.

A number of other major semiconductor companies are also expected to announce their latest breakthroughs at the conference.

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Martyn Williams

Computerworld

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