Intel and IBM say they’ve found a way to keep Moore’s Law healthy: In late January, the companies announced separate chip-manufacturing advances involving a building block called high-k. High-k materials are better insulators than standard silicon dioxide—allowing engineers to keep shrinking transistors without losing efficiency through leaking electricity. This should produce smaller chips that run faster, on less power, compared with today’s CPUs.
The news promises longevity for Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of transistors on a chip doubles about every two years. Recently, engineers have been physically running out of room on chips, and the chips have been generating too much heat.
Intel officials predict the breakthrough will help Moore’s Law thrive “well into the next decade.”
The announcements underscore an old industry rivalry, since IBM did its research with Sony, Toshiba and Advanced Micro Devices.
Both Intel and AMD say they will use the technology to speed the transition from today’s 65-nanometer (nm) chip-building process to 45 nm. Intel plans to start production in the second half of the year—with five chips for mobile, desktop and server machines. AMD plans to produce its first 45-nm chips in mid-2008, according to AMD spokeswoman Jessica Kaiser. IBM aims to sell systems with chips that use the new transistors by the end of 2008. It will use the technology to help develop large-scale servers and supercomputers, says Bernie Meyerson, chief technologist for IBM’s Systems & Technology Group.