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May 06, 2011

Intel's New 3-D Transistors Could Help Reinvent the Mobile Market

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

After nearly a decade of talk, Intel (News - Alert) is finally ready to put its 3-D transistor design into production. The microprocessor structure, known as Tri-Gate, is expected to help Intel grab a major share of the mobile market when the first chips are formally introduced in 2012.

By creating transistors using a three-dimensional structure, Intel will help reprove the validity of Moore’s Law, which says that the number of transistors on a chip will double every two years. Many industry experts thought this prediction would finally prove false, more than 40 years after Intel’s founder Gordon Moore first stated it.

The Tri-Gate design will replace the traditional two-dimensional planar transistor structure and will enable Intel to produce smaller, faster and lower-voltage chips. The first 22-nanometer chips, codenamed Ivy Bridge, will most likely make their first appearance in client and server products in 2012, Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel’s architecture group, noted during a press event.

Intel’s new 22nm chips are expected to be 37 percent faster than the current 32nm microprocessors. The 3-D transistors in these new chips will consume less than half the power of the 2-D planar transistors on 32nm chips.

“The performance gains and power savings of Intel’s unique 3-D Tri-Gate transistors are like nothing we’ve seen before,” Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow, noted in a statement. “The low-voltage and low-power benefits far exceed what we typically see from one process generation to the next.”

Most analysts expect the introduction of these new transistors and chips to help redefine Intel in the current market. The California-based company is still the dominant force in the PC market, but has been surpassed by ARM (News - Alert) in the burgeoning smartphone and tablet spaces. With the PC market struggling, Intel needed to manufacture a small, lightning-fast chip designed with the mobile segment in mind.

“The 3D transistor is a big leap forward for Intel and could be a game-changer for mobile devices. When this technology is applied to processors in the Atom range, it’s going to make them much more competitive with ARM processors,” Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, told Computer World.

For consumers, the new 22nm chip should lead to faster, more capable mobile devices.

Intel first disclosed the 3-D transistor design in 2002, and has been talking about it ever since. While acknowledging that the structure is “well-known in the industry,” Bohr speculates that Intel will have at least a three-year lead on its rivals, according to CNET.

Check out the YouTube (News - Alert) video for some more insight on the technology. 

Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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