IBM advances new form of transistor to improve chips

DECEMBER 4--IBM (East Fishkill, NY) has developed an alternate type of transistor--the basic building block of microchips--that could lead to major performance, function, and power-consumption improvements in semiconductors within several years.

DECEMBER 4--IBM (East Fishkill, NY) has developed an alternate type of transistor--the basic building block of microchips--that could lead to major performance, function, and power-consumption improvements in semiconductors within several years. Called a "double-gate" transistor, the device can carry twice the electrical current, operate at up to twice the speed, and be reduced in size well below today's conventional transistors. The opportunity for further miniaturization is key, as the dimensions of the traditional transistor are reaching the limits imposed by the law of physics, threatening to slow the gains in performance that are required for high-speed communications, information systems, and consumer electronics.

The breakthrough was made possible by a series of innovations from IBM in new device designs and materials such as SOI, a chip-making material that IBM pioneered and that is now becoming a standard in the industry. IBM's expertise in SOI is allowing scientists to alter the design of the transistor in ways not possible before, while still allowing them to be built on conventional manufacturing lines.

IBM's work on the double-gate transistor and the latest SOI developments will be presented this week at the International Electronic Device Manufactures conference in Washington, DC. "SOI is changing the rules in semiconductors," said Bijan Davari, vice president of semiconductor development at IBM Microelectronics. "Other than getting smaller, the basic transistor has largely gone unchanged for decades, but it has now been shrunk nearly to a point where it will cease to function. Our experience using SOI allows us to change the basic design of the transistor, permitting further shrinkage and other improvements."

The work on double-gate transistors is the culmination of a multiyear collaborative effort between the IBM Research www.research.ibm.com and Microelectronic www.chips.ibm.com Divisions.

Images relating to this work can be found at domino.research.ibm.com/comm/bios.nsf/pages/doublegate.html.

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