Intel has just announced the world’s first 3D transistor which could allow the company to become a much bigger player in the mobile market where ARM-designed chips are currently dominating.
Intel announced its 3D tri-gate transistor yesterday which will use a 22 nanometre process with a fin jutting up in the centre. The result of a decade of research by Intel, the new transistors will go into production this year and will appear in computers in 2012 in the Ivy Bridge processors. Intel also said the tri-gate transistors would be seen in 14nm chips in 2013 and 10nm chips in 2015. The current 2D planar transistor design threatened to bring Moore’s Law to an end around 2015 due to too much leakage This new innovation could see the number of transistors on a chip continue to double every 12 to 18 months, as the new tri-gate transistors will use less voltage and as a result mean that there will be less leakage. "For years we have seen limits to how small transistors can get," said Gordon E. Moore. "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 new innovation should give Intel a firmer hold in the smartphone and tablet market where its x86 architecture has proven to be too power hungry so far. With Microsoft announcing at the beginning of the year that they would make the next version of Windows compatible with ARM-designed chips, this announcement by Intel seems like very good timing. “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” said Mark Bohr, Intel Senior Fellow.
This is certainly a major milestone in transistor and chip design and could signal a major improvement in power and size in the coming years. With the goal of ‘cubic chips’ (a chip with a double layer of transistors) still a while away, the new 3D design by Intel could drive processor growth in the foreseeable future.