UPDATED: 45 days and counting… to the magic of 45nm Hafnium

See NEW video at the end of this post.

45 is an important number. In 45 BC Julius Caesar won a victory over the armies of Pompey and proclaimed himself the sole ruler of Rome. Some 2000 years later, in 1945 the allies won a victory over the Axis powers. Both victories signaled huge changes in the world and moved it forwards in a new direction.

Now in 45 days time, something will happen that is not as extraordinary as the deeds of Caesar and Churchill, but it certainly does have the power to change and move the world forward.

In 45 days, a new building called “Fab 32” tucked into a sleepy corner of Arizona will come to life. Inside this building a new type of device will be made in incredible numbers. These devices will be able to shop for groceries, analyze proteins, play computer games, model financial markets, allow you to chat to your aunt in Australia, design automobiles and search for aliens. And these devices will do so faster than ever before, cooler than ever before and better than ever before.


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I am of course talking about Intel‘s new high-k and metal gate based 45nm chips. The champion of technology and the true revolutionary; Gordon Moore said earlier this year – “…high-k and metal materials marks the biggest change in transistor technology since the introduction of polysilicon gate MOS transistors in the late 1960s.” Like the original silicon MOS transistors, the devices created at this new manufacturing fab will be forged with new ideas and new materials including — Hafnium. The new fab will be the world’s first 45nm (nanometer = teeny-tiny) facility to make Intel’s latest generation microprocessors based on the new high-k metal gate transistors, and do so in colossal numbers.

The first of these new chips were manufactured back in January at the development fab (called D1D – see a video of D1D here) up in Hillsboro, Oregon. In the months following, the chips were tested and perfected by our elite engineers. Those clever boffins also began seeding the technology to the team that will work in Fab 32, the world first high-volume 45nm manufacturing fab in Chandler, Ariz. Two additional 45nm fabs will come online next year in Israel and in New Mexico. These fabs will create the next generation of Core 2 processors.

People have come to expect new chip technology to arrive to the ~2 year beat of Moore’s Law. What the average Joe doesn’t know is that halving the size of things every two years is kinda difficult yet wonderful. As the old analogy goes: If the automobile industry had a ‘Moore’s Law’ effect, your car would go a bazillion miles on one tank of fuel and cost less than tasty morsel from a fast food joints’ dollar menu.

But cramming more and more transistors – now the size of a virus – together is insanely difficult. To do it once is amazing, but to shove more than 400 million of them together in a sensible pattern and in a way where they all just work is little short of miraculous. If not broken, surely the laws of physics have to be coaxed into bending a little? (Wishful thinking.)

And we the consumer enjoy the benefits. Smaller transistors lead to smaller and faster chips, made with new materials. These new materials – a hafnium-based high-k material for the transistor’s insulating layer and metal materials for the transistor gate make the 45nm chips even quicker and even cooler. More so, these 45nm chips will lead to new growth opportunities for Intel and high tech industry. Imagine an ultra mobile device that is half – or even a quarter the size of your laptop today, Internet-connected consumer electronic devices that talk to each other and your TV, or even a powerful, cost-effective processor for emerging economies.

Construction on Fab 32 first began more than 2 years ago and anticipation of the official opening grows each day. Intel is no stranger to building and ramping fabs in preparation for a shift to a new process technology, but this time it means a little more. So in 45 days, you will hear more about Intel’s $3 billion investment in Fab 32.

For more information on 45nm check out this new little video:

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