Who they are and what they do. During the course of several weeks meet some of the employees who contribute to making Moore’s Law possible.
Tahir Ghani, Intel Senior Fellow and director of transistor technology and integration, Portland Technology Development, TMG (Oregon)
Leading the ‘innovation era’ of Moore’s Law: Tahir joined Intel in 1994, when silicon technology had spent a decade or so ticking through new nodes without dramatic changes to materials or transistor structures. At the 0.13-micron (130nm) node, the team faced what “was thought to be a fundamental limiter”: leakage from the thin-gate insulator.
The team overcame it by introducing strained silicon, which in its 2003 debut leapfrogged the industry by several years. “That was the first generation of innovations driving the scaling, rather than just the dimensional aspects of scaling,” Tahir recalls. Two major developments have since followed: high-k metal gate transistors at 45nm, and 3-D Tri-Gate or “FinFET” transistors at 22nm.
My Moore’s Law role: He demurs when asked if people call him “Mr. Transistor,” but if you had to name just one at Intel, Tahir is the guy. His team lives almost entirely in the future, developing next-generation transistors—the basic building blocks of all Intel silicon products. They’re currently working on the 7nm node.
No plan B: The secret to their relentless pursuit of Moore’s Law? The team first makes a deeply informed “commitment to a quantum-huge change, and then we dedicate ourselves to implementing and resolving all the challenges,” he says. “There is no secondary option—and I think that allows you to focus and deliver, come hell or high water.”
– By Jeremy Schultz, Intel Employee Communications Team
Weeks of battery life, please: The beauty of Moore’s Law lies not just in economics, but the span of design points: you can get more performance at the expense of more power, or more power efficiency for less performance. The latter is where Michael and his team focus. “From day one, we architected the entire die to meet the power target—everything else becomes secondary,” Michael explains. While the battery life of today’s wearables is mostly measured in days, “our target is weeks…that is the challenge.”
My Moore’s Law role: The first surprise product unveiling made by CEO Brian Krzanich—the September 2013 launch of the Quark family of tiny SoCs—originated from a small skunk works hidden in Intel’s Leixlip, Ireland campus. Michael Langan played a lead role in that product’s creation, and today he’s the silicon lead for Atlas Peak. Unveiled in January at CES as Intel® Curie, the “system-on-a-button” will bring low-power smarts to wearables and “a whole new set of products we haven’t even thought about yet,” Michael says.
–By Jeremy Schultz, Intel Employee Communications Team