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Breakthrough in chip technology

IBM and its joint development partners - AMD, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, Freescale, Infineon and Samsung - have announced an innovative approach to speed the implementation of a breakthrough material known as high-k/metal gate in next-generation 32-nanometre computer chips.

Published on December 18, 2007

This new approach, an industry first based on what engineers call a high-k gate-first process, is designed to provide a simpler, less time-consuming way for clients to migrate to high-k/metal gate technology in order to secure benefits that include improved performance and reduced power consumption.

Chips using the new technique will support a range of applications from low-power computer microchips targeted at wireless and other consumer-oriented devices to high-performance microprocessors for games and enterprise computing.

This new approach to implementing high-k/metal gate will be available to IBM alliance members and their clients in the second half of 2009.

Earlier this year, IBM and its research partners, including Sony and Toshiba, introduced the high-k/metal gate innovation as the basis for a long-sought improvement to the transistor, the tiny on-off switch that serves as the basic building block of virtually all microchips made today. Using the high-k/metal gate material in a critical portion of the transistor enabled the development of 32nm chip circuitry that is designed to be smaller, faster and more power-efficient than previously thought possible.

Using high-k/metal gate, IBM and its alliance partners have been able to reduce the size of a chip by up to 50 per cent compared to the previous technology, while improving a number of other performance specifications. For example, high-k/metal gate chips save about 45 per cent total power, an increasingly critical aspect of all electronics applications.

Together these improvements will increase functionality and performance with lower power consumption and improved battery life in mobile devices. For microprocessor applications, this innovation also enables up to 30-per-cent higher performance.

IBM and its partners have also developed low-power foundry Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology using the high-k-gate-first approach and have demonstrated the first 32nm ultra dense static random access memory (SRAM) in this low-power technology area with extremely small cell sizes.

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