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IPFS News Link • Technology: Computer Hardware

Intel to Mass-Produce New 3-D Transistors for Faster, More Efficient Computer Chips


In a move that could remake the microchip industry, Intel announced Wednesday it will start mass-producing the first three-dimensional silicon transistors. The 3-D transistor design, which Intel says will improve efficiency by more than one-third, will be integrated into a 22-nanometer node in an Intel chip called Ivy Bridge.

It’s a major change from the two-dimensional flat transistor structure we all know and love, which has powered every computer chip for the last 50 years. The 3-D switch design and the scale of its production will allow Moore’s Law to advance apace, Intel said.
Moore’s Law holds that the number of transistors that can be placed on a circuit will double every two years, but this places limits on the circuits’ size — a growing problem as engineers cram greater numbers of transistors onto ever-tinier chips. A 3-D switch could allow computer chips to be built like skyscrapers, optimizing space by building upward, and thereby allowing uninhibited transistor growth.

The Tri-Gate transistors consist of a thin 3-D silicon fin that arises vertically from the silicon substrate, Intel explains. Each fin has three gates, one on the top and one on each side, which allows for greater transistor current control. When it’s on, current flow is more efficient, and when the switches are off, the flow of electrons is closer to zero. By contrast, flat transistors have one gate, only on top.