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International Business Machines, Advanced Micro Devices as well as their partners Sony and Toshiba have unveiled details concerning their jointly developed 45nm process technology. The companies, which will begin production using 45nm nodes in 2008, said they would also use high-k dielectrics, like Intel Corp. does with its 45nm fabrication process.

“Until now, the chip industry was facing a major roadblock in terms of how far we could push current technology. After more than ten years of effort, we now have a way forward. With chip technology so pervasive in our everyday lives, this work will benefit people in many ways,” said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president of science and technology, IBM Research.

Working with AMD and its other development partners Sony and Toshiba, IBM has found a way to construct a critical part of the transistor with a new material, clearing a path toward chip circuitry that is smaller, faster and more power-efficient than previously thought possible. As important, the technology can be incorporated into existing chip manufacturing lines with minimal changes to tooling and processes, making it economically viable.

The technology, called “high-k metal gate,” substitutes a new material into a critical portion of the transistor that controls its primary on/off switching function. The material provides superior electrical properties compared to its predecessor, enhancing the transistor’s function while also allowing the size of the transistor to be shrunk beyond limits being reached today.

As important as the new material itself is the method for introducing it into current manufacturing techniques. The creation of this transistor component with the new material was accomplished by the IBM team without requiring major tooling or process changes in manufacturing – an essential element if the technology is to be economically viable.

Incremental work leading up to this achievement had been published earlier by IBM in scientific journals and presented at chip technology conferences. IBM plans to publish the summary of this final achievement in a similar forthcoming venue.

The achievement is expected to have widespread impact, leading to improvements in electronic systems of all kinds, from computers to consumer electronics. IBM has inserted the technology into its semiconductor manufacturing line in East Fishkill, NY and will apply it to products with chip circuits as small as 45 nanometers starting in 2008.

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