An IBM-led alliance plans to make prototypes of 32nm chips in the third quarter of this year:
The latest processors use transistors built with a new material known as "high-k/metal gate," which makes it possible to shrink the size of transistors to 32 nanometers. The latest chips today use 45-nanometer transistors. By reducing the size further, chipmakers can get more of the devices on a piece of silicon, which translates into greater power efficiency.
IBM has manufactured chips using high-k/metal gate at its 300-millimeter semiconductor fabrication facility in East Fishkill, N.Y. IBM partners in the initiative include Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, Freescale, Infineon Technologies, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, and Toshiba. Intel is not part of the alliance, but the chipmaker is developing its own chips using similar materials.
The IBM alliance plans to make prototypes of the 32-nanometer chips available starting in the third quarter. Feasibility tests of high-k/metal gate technology conducted at the Albany, N.Y., NanoTech Complex of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering show that the material can eventually be extended to 22-nanometer processors.
"This early design and modeling work indicates that the high-k/metal gate technology is going to deliver a significant product and performance differentiation," Dirk Wrister, director of process technology at Freescale, said in a statement. "These early results are a significant step in the demonstration of high k/metal gate viability in 32-nm technology."