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Intel declares itself on 45nm track

By Alun Williams

Posted on 25 Jan 2006 at 16:33

Intel has insisted it is on course with its 45 nanometer (nm) process technology plans for building ever more dense, or smaller, memory and processor chips.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Intel's Director of Process Architecture and Integration, Mark Bohr, asserted that Intel was 'on track' for product shipments of 45nm technology in the second half of 2007.

He claimed Intel had reached a major milestone, with the development of fully functional 153 Mbit SRAM chips. Made with 1 billion transistors each, he said the memory cell size on these SRAM chips is almost half the size of the equivalent 65nm cell.

What does it all mean in real terms? Bohr said the x2 improvement in transistor density could enable either smaller chip sizes or increased transistor counts, for greater chip functionality.

There is also, he claimed, a 30 per cent reduction in transistor switching power, together with either a 20 per cent improvement in transistor switching speeds or a x5 reduction in leakage power.

It means 'improved performance per Watt, that will enhance the user experience', he claimed, but he would not go into manufacturing techniques as to how exactly these gains have been achieved.

Of course, no Intel presentation is complete without a reference to Moore's Law, and this was duly rolled out to highlight progress made - that Intel is developing a new technology generation every couple of years: 65nm production first arrived in 2005, and 32nm production is pencilled in to begin 2009.

Initial work has centred on 45nm SRAM cells (pictured). These involve 6-transistor SRAM cell areas of 0.346 m, with 193nm dry lithography being used to pattern critical layers. The chips measure 119 mm.

Bohr insisted that there were wider implications than for just memory, that the developments involve high-speed logic circuits that will subsequently go directly into CPU products. Effectively, SRAM test vehicles are used to demo technology performance, yield and reliability, prior to CPU production.

Speaking on Intel's current 65nm status, Bohr declared that Intel had shipped more than a million processors made on 65nm process technology, with the majority of CPUs shipped crossing-over from 90nm to 65nm expected by the autumn of 2006.

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