Intel 45-nanometer Penryn Processors Arrive

Penryn chips are the result of the first fundamental redesign of the CMOS transistor

1 min read

13 November 2007— On 11 November Intel announced the release of 16 server and high-end PC processors based on the first fundamental redesign of the CMOS transistor in 40 years. The chips are built using a manufacturing process that can make structures as small as 45 nanometers. The transistors it makes aren’t just small; they include several materials not previously used. The gates are now made from metal instead of polycrystalline silicon, and the insulating layer between the gate and the transistor channel are made from a hafnium-based high-k dielectric material instead of silicon dioxide.

The materials switch eliminates a serious problem that has been plaguing transistors for the several generations. Transistors had shrunk to the point where quantum mechanical effects have been causing current to leak through the thin silicon dioxide insulation layer between the gate and the channel. Switching to a high-k dielectric stemmed the leak, but also necessitated a switch to a metal gate.

The leaders of the epic engineering effort that developed the new transistor and manufacturing process laid out all the details in the October issue of IEEE Spectrum.

The specific chips the company is launching are 15 server processors under the Xeon Hi-k brand (it’s codename during development was Penryn). In addition it is launching a desktop processor called Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 quad core processor.

Intel started making the chips in late October at its newly tooled Fab 32 in Chandler, Ariz. The fab relies on automation software that has improved manufacturing efficiency and helped close the loop between production and R&D.

To Probe Further

The transistor redesign is detailed in ”The High-k Solution

The fab automation software used to make the new chips is explained in ”Future Fab

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