There is a lot of talk right now about 45nm – the newest and most exciting step along the Moore’s Law story. (Yes, it IS exciting…)Essentially it means that transistors can be made smaller, and the smallest feature size is only 45nm across, that is less than 200 silicon atoms wide. Ok, so we have tiny transistors, this means we have space for more of them, and this means more capabilities built into the chips – these could take the form of more performance or other goodness such as virtualization or new instructions. But Intel has been loud and proud recently about their 45nm transistors – and not just because we are first again. But because our new 45nm transistors are built using revolutionary new materials (a High K gate dielectric and new metal gates) that will allow for faster and lower power devices. So why should anyone care? Gordon Moore (utterer of the famous law) expressed his excitement quite clearly:
“The implementation of high-k and metal materials marks the biggest change in transistor technology since the introduction of polysilicon gate MOS transistors in the late 1960s.”
So the biggest change in 40 years! This is to transistors what breaking the sound barrier was to aviation– and does the rest of the industry care?Well – several companies have been claiming their new 45nm transistors will be as good as Intel’s. When confronted with such assertions, several questions should be asked: Do they have designs for both necessary types high-K/metal gate transistors, both PMOS and NMOS? Hint: you need the full complement to make a chip that will see the full benefits from the new materials; you can’t stick a jet engine on one wing and propeller on the other.) Have they created any working chips using the new materials? Will their chips be 100% lead free? Will their 45nm chips contain high-K metal gate transistors? Thanks to Intel’s new 45nm high-K metal gate transistors process we can pack 2,500 CPU dies onto a single 300mm wafer. These are our recently announced “Silverthorne” low power processors that benefit greatly from energy sipping silicon. Because only Intel is bringing out truly revolutionary transistors this year, only Intel processors will benefit from the densest, fastest and lowest power mass-produced CPU transistors – and that means better high scores for gamers, better video playback for movie buffs, better server performance, and a longer lasting laptop battery. See, transistors are now cooler.