Intel has built what it claims is the world's smallest and fastest CMOS transistor. The company says that within the next five to ten years (nice accurate bit of futurology there) it will be able to build microprocessors containing more than 400 million transistors, running at 10GHz and operating at less than 1V.
Intel boffins will disclose more details later today at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco.
The transistors contain structures just 30 nanometers in size and three atomic layers thick. More than 100,000 of these gates would need to be stacked to achieve the thickness of a sheet of paper.
"Many experts thought it would be impossible to build CMOS transistors this small because of electrical leakage problems," said Gerald Marcyk, director of Intel's Components Research Lab.
"Our research proves that these smaller transistors behave in the same way as today's devices and shows there are no fundamental barriers to producing these devices in high volume in the future."
The transistors will begin appearing in products manufactured using 0.07 micron (70nm) technology, which is three manufacturing processes more advanced than Intel's current 0.18 micron technology.
The new technology will rely on Extreme Ultra Violet (EUV) lithography, which will be combined with 157nm lithography to enable manufacturers to continue producing smaller and faster processors.
"The most important thing about these 30nm transistors is that they are simultaneously small and fast, and work at low voltage. Typically you can achieve two of the three, but delivering on all facets is a significant accomplishment," added Marcyk.
Intel suggests that a 10GHz processor could power a universal translator as seen on Star Trek. This could prove useful in automatically removing gaffes from Intel CEO's speeches. ®
Fascinating 70nm facts
- A 10GHz processor will be able to complete 20 million calculations in the time a speeding bullet travels one foot, or - according to Intel, where the laws of mathematics are twisted into strange and arcane new shapes - two million calculations in the time it travels one inch.
- A 10GHz processor is faster than the blink of an eye. In the times it takes you to blink (1/50th of a second or so), the processor can complete about 400 million calculations.
- A 10GHz desktop computer should cost around $1500, says Intel, but refuses to be pinned down to a specific launch date.