Intel is the world’s number one semiconductor maker in 2012, but the biggest growth areas were in mobile chips other than Atom, according to IHS iSuppli (El Segundo, Calif.) To get ahead in mobile, Intel described a new low-power process for its mobile Atom processors at the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM 2012, San Francisco, Dec. 10-11). The new 22-nanometer Atom, according to Intel, will drastically extend the battery life of smartphones, tablets, netbooks, embedded systems and wireless communications devices.
Last year at IEDM, Intel described its 22-nanometer process for high-end processors, rolling it out in 2012 as the semiconductor process basis for many new chips, including all Ivy Bridge processors such as the Core i3, i5 and i7 and the Xeon E3. At IEDM 2012, Intel described how it has tweaked that 22-nanometer process for various Atom-based mobile devices. Doing so lets designers using Intel’s mobile processors choose from a range of power savings for extending mobile device battery life.
Intel’s 22-nanometer process is based on the novel technique: adding three-dimensional (3-D) fins to its field-effect-transistors (FinFETS). This lowers the leakage current when transistors are off, thanks to the increased surface area on the 3-D fins. It also increases the electric-field density on the chip, which allows lower voltage power supplies. Both advantages combine to give devices using Intel’s 22-nanometer node a power savings of from 20 to 65 percent, according to Intel.
Intel’s 3-D FinFET transistor uses three-dimension the fins shown here to increase the surface area of its gate electrodes. SOURCE: Intel
Intel also said its 22-nanometer FinFET architecture was now proven out for mixed-signal analog/digital applications common on mobile devices, enabling Intel to provide a complete semiconductor solution, including even the high-voltage transistors and passive components required for the radio-frequency (RF) portions of wirelessly connected mobile devices. With both the digital and analog components required for mobile devices available using Intel’s 3-D FinFET transistors, Intel can now offer a complete systems-on-chip (SoC) solution for smartphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices, many of which it said will debut in 2013.
And to stay ahead, Intel added it had already verified its current 3-D FinFET transistor architecture would work at a scaled-down 14-nanometer size due out around 2014 and was working on the 10-nanometer node in the lab.