Advanced Micro Devices is reportedly adopting strained silicon for an array of its processors that will be available this Fall. The design tweak is likely to improve the company’s ability to ship high-speed microprocessors while maintaining sufficient yield as well as keeping heat dissipation of the products into generally-acceptable envelope.
Silicon-on-Insulator and strained silicon appear to be the technologies that AMD, Intel and IBM pin a lot of hopes on during the next three to five years. Both technologies are intended to keep increasing the speed of current flowing through a microprocessor and to address the connected issues, such as power leakage. SOI adds a thin oxide layer to a silicon wafer in order to insulate the circuit against power leakage. Strained silicon, in its incarnation that is used by Intel Corp. and IBM, deposits a layer of silicon germanium on top of a silicon wafer. This stretches the silicon atoms to let electrons flow faster through a circuit.
According to reports from Semiconductor Reporter and CNET News.com, Advanced Micro Devices is incorporating strained silicon into all the firm’s 90nm microprocessors that started shipping last week. Additionally, the Sunnyvale, California-based chipmaker is expected to use strained silicon with its future 130nm microprocessors, which is a rather surprising move, as chipmakers typically tend to migrate to thinner fabrication processes to allow higher-speed chips and decrease production costs, but not to advance older-generation manufacturing technologies.
Representatives for Advanced Micro Devices are reported to have said that strained silicon approach of the company is different from what IBM and Intel Corp. use. Silicon can be strained as a byproduct of other design changes, but the AMD representative said the company intentionally incorporated new layers in chips to achieve straining, although AMD does not give a lot of details about its new technology.
IBM and AMD are developing 65nm manufacturing process in collaboration. AMD’s Silicon-on-Insulator process was originally developed by IBM.