HighK_Spectrum_Oct_07 - The high-k SoluTion Microprocessors...

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The high- k SoluTion Microprocessors coMing out this fall are the result of the first big redesign in cMos transistors since the late 1960s bY MarK t. bohr, robert s. chau, tahir ghani From left: Ghani, Mistry, Chau, and Bohr of Intel with a wafer of 45‑nanometer microprocessors
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A s you read this, two of our most advanced fabs here at Intel are gearing up for the commercial production of the latest Core 2 microprocessors, code-named Penryn, due to start rolling off the lines before the year is up. The chips, based on our latest 45-nanometer CMOS process technol- ogy will have more transistors and run faster and cooler than microprocessors fabricated with the previous, 65-nm process generation. For compute- intensive music, video, and gaming applications, users will see a hefty performance increase over the best chips they are now using. A welcome development but hardly big news, right? After all, the density of transistors on chips has been periodically doubling, as predicted by Moore’s Law, for more than 40 years. The initial Penryn chips will be either dual-core processors with more than 400 million transistors or quad-core processors with more than 800 million transistors. You might think these chips don’t represent anything other than yet another checkpoint in the inexorable march of Moore’s Law. But you’d be wrong. The chips would not have been possible without a major breakthrough in the way we construct a key component of the infinitesimal transistors on those chips, called the gate stack. The basic problem we had to overcome was that a few years ago we ran out of atoms. Literally. To keep on the Moore’s Law curve, we need to halve the size of our transistors every 24 months or so. The physics dictates that the smallest parts of those transistors have to be dimin- ished by a factor of 0.7. But there’s one critical part of the tran- sistor that we found we couldn’t shrink anymore. It’s the thin layer of silicon dioxide (SiO 2 ) insulation that electrically isolates the transistor’s gate from the channel through which current flows when the transistor is on. That insulating layer has been slimmed and shrunk with each new generation, about tenfold since the mid-1990s alone. Two generations before Penryn, that insulation had become a scant five atoms thick. We couldn’t shave off even one more tenth of a nanometer— a single silicon atom is 0.26 nm in diameter. More important, at a thickness of five atoms, the insulation was already a problem, wasting power by letting electrons rain through it. Without a significant innovation, the semiconductor industry was in danger of encountering the dreaded “showstopper,” the long- awaited insurmountable problem that ends the Moore’s Law era of periodic exponential performance gains in memories, microprocessors, and other chips—and the very good times that have gone with it. The solution to this latest crisis involved thickening the
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This note was uploaded on 09/16/2011 for the course ELEC 7770 taught by Professor Agrawal,v during the Spring '08 term at Auburn University.

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HighK_Spectrum_Oct_07 - The high-k SoluTion Microprocessors...

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