Intel takes the silicon out of chips

New Penryn processor out of Haifa R&D center uses new formula that alleviates electricity leaks.

intel israel 224 88 (photo credit: Intel [file])
intel israel 224 88
(photo credit: Intel [file])
Once again led by its research and development center in Haifa, Intel Corp., the world's largest semiconductor manufacturer, on Monday unveiled its smallest and fastest processing chipset. Codenamed Penryn, the processors, including 16 eco-friendly and "cooler" chips, are the first to be produced on the company's 45 nanometer (nm) manufacturing process. "The intellects, physics and designs that went into solving one of the industry's most daunting challenges are awe-inspiring and I congratulate the Intel teams for this breakthrough achievement," said Paul Otellini, Intel president and CEO, as he unveiled the product. "Best yet, this feat, coupled with our industry-leading architectures, means faster and sleeker computers, longer battery life and better energy efficiency. Our objective is to bring consumers a new class of computers delivering a full Internet experience in ever-smaller, more portable form factors." The chips were built using an entirely new transistor formula that alleviates the wasteful electricity leaks that threaten future computer innovation. In addition to increasing computer performance and saving energy use, the processors eliminate eco-unfriendly lead and, beginning in 2008, halogen materials. "This development marks the biggest transistor advancements in 40 years," said Intel co-founder Gordon Moore. Intel's new flagship manufacturing plant in Israel, Fab-28, currently under construction in Kiryat Gat, will produce the new 45nm chips beginning sometime in late-2008, an Intel spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. The new 45nm (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) processors boast nearly twice the transistor density of previous chips built on the company's 65nm technology, meaning that up to 820 million transistors can be packed into quad-core processors. "The technology that was developed for the 45nm chips is much more advanced then any technology that we have ever developed before," Roni Friedman, vice president of the Mobility Group and General Manager of the Mobility Microprocessor Group, said in a conference call. "With a smaller silicon die, Intel can have more CPUs from the wafer and by reducing the size of the die it is possible to create a bigger memory cache without increasing the size of the chip. Also, a smaller die has closer circuits, making it faster for them to communicate to each other." The processors are the first to use Intel's Hafnium-based high-k metal gate (Hi-k) formula for the hundreds of millions of transistors inside the processors. According to Intel, the move to halfnium doesn't just facilitate the shrinkage from 65nm to 45nm, but the new process also increases transistor switching speed and greatly reduces power leakage, thus upping performance-per-watt in the Penryn line significantly beyond what's gained from a typical die shrink. Intel has claimed its 45nm chips get a 38 percent efficiency boost over their 65nm predecessors. "The breakthroughs clear the path for Intel to design products that are 25% smaller than previous versions and, thus, more cost-effective, as well as the ability next year to pursue new ultra mobile and consumer electronics "system on chip" opportunities," Intel said. The processors also include additional features such as the new Intel Streaming SIMD Extensions 4 (SSE4), which are 47 new instructions that speed up workloads including video encoding for high-definition and photo manipulation, as well as key HPC and enterprise applications. Software vendors supporting the new SSE4 instruction set include Adobe, Microsoft and Symantec. Intel's Israeli R&D facilities have been at the forefront of its technological breakthroughs contributing to technologies such as the Core 2 Duo and the 65nm multi-core microprocessor, which serves as the bais for the Intel Viiv and Centrino Duo mobile technologies.