Intel mulls metal over silicon for new chips

Moore's Law is alive and well, but Intel is changing its basic semiconductor recipes to make sure it stays that way. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker is looking at revamping two fundamental elements of its transistors--the transistor gate and the gate dielectric--so its chips will continue to increase in speed and performance.

Currently, the gate, which controls whether a transistor is on or off, is made of silicon atoms, while the gate dielectric, an insulating layer below the gate, is made of silicon dioxide. By making both out of metal, Intel will be able to clamp down on electricity leakage and other looming problems that could put a lid on improvement. In experiments, the new transistors are setting records on certain parameters, according to the company.

"We'd love to continue with silicon dioxide, but we can't do it because of leakage," said Ken David, director of components research in Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group. "People keep running into these fundamental roadblocks." Chips with metallic gates and metallic gate dielectrics (also called high-k dielectrics) may appear in 2007 with the 45-nanometer manufacturing process.

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News source: ZDNet UK

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