IBM Engineers Make Recipe for 22-Nanometer Transistors

Mix of metals and dielectrics lets them shrink transistors and maintain performance at the same time

2 min read

15 June 2009—Engineers at IBM reported this week at the VLSI Symposia that they have come up with a transistor design that will carry the company through to the 22-nanometer generation of chips—two generations beyond what the company is pushing into production this year. The design is a modification of the metals and insulation in the gate stack, the part of the transistor that controls the flow of electricity through it. Other firms, such as Intel, have changed their gate-stack construction in recent years to include so-called high- k dielectrics and metal gates, but IBM claims that its technique is the first to control two crucial electronic parameters at once.

Typically, research efforts to make 22-nm transistors have focused either on making the gate dielectric more permeable to an electric field, scaling down its ”equivalent oxide thickness,” or they’ve focused on lowering the device’s threshold voltage, the amount of voltage needed at the transistor’s gate to turn the transistor on. Threshold voltage must be made low, around 0.1 to 0.2 volts, in order to get a suitable amount of current flowing through the transistor during its normal operation.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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