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Intel to extend lead in high-k

Posted: 12 Dec 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:high-k/metal-gate  IEDM  microprocessor 

Chip giant Intel Corp. is expected to extend its lead over AMD, IBM and other microprocessor vendors in the high-k/metal-gate race at next week's International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM).

In a paper, Intel will describe a new 45nm derivative for SoC designs based on high-k/metal-gate technology. In addition, Intel will provide more details about its previously-announced, 32nm process, based on a second-generation, high-k/metal-gate architecture. And, Intel will talk about a quantum well field effect transistor technology.

It is also working on its 22nm technology, which is in R&D. While it did not elaborate on this technology, the company acknowledged that it may end up processing its 22nm designs using 193nm immersion scanners, meaning extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography is late to the party—again.

Regarding two other key technologies—high-k and metal-gates—a big question remains: Can Intel's competitors catch up? To date, Intel's main rival, AMD, has announced its 45nm processors, but the devices reportedly do not use a high-k/metal-gate scheme.

AMD's technology partner, IBM Corp., does not expect to have its high-k/metal-gate solution until the 32nm node, reportedly causing some angst in the market. IBM's "fab club" is using a gate-first approach to high-k and metal gates, while Intel is deploying a rival replacement-gate technology.

High-k lead
For some time, Intel has already shipped 45nm processors based on the technology, giving it an edge in the market. High-k and metal gates are key building blocks for scaling and reducing the leakage within the critical gate stack, enabling the next-generation transistor.

High-k uses a material called hafnium to replace the transistor's silicon dioxide gate dielectric, which is running out of gas in today's designs. Also on the transistor, a metal material replaces the polysilicon gate electrode of NMOS and PMOS structures.

Despite an endless parade of claims made by vendors, high-k/metal-gate technology is much harder to develop than previously thought. IBM's "fab club" is reportedly wrestling with the technology, while the foundries will not deploy the scheme until the 32- or 28nm nodes.

With the exception of Intel, "nobody else is shipping high-k yet," said Mark Bohr, Intel senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration. "We have more than a one generation lead in technology," Bohr told EE Times.

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