Intel's researchers have demonstrated an improved tri-gate technology which promises to increase transistor speeds by 45 per cent or reduce power leakage by a factor of 50.
Power leakage is an ever increasing problem for the semiconductor industry, especially as chipmakers advance to smaller production processes.
The phenomenon mostly results in increased heat production of desktop or server chips while reducing battery life for portable devices.
The gains obtained from Intel's new production technology can be used either to obtain energy savings, increase a chip's performance or a combination of both.
"Essentially we have created a device that can work over a wide range of conditions and that can be optimised for a wide variety of devices [in a way that is] significantly better than today," Mike Mayberry, Intel's director of components research, said in a briefing with reporters.
Intel's new process uses tri-gate transistors in combination with strained silicon and high-k gate dielectrics and metal gate electrodes.
Tri-gate technology surrounds the silicon with gates on three sides to cut down on power leakage. It was first presented in 2002.
Intel is now proposing to use high-k gate dielectrics and metal gate electrodes as the gate that wraps around the silicon.
"If you think of it in terms of a traffic cop analogy, it's like giving him a bigger sign. You reach more effectively into that device and shut the device off more effectively," Mayberry explained.
Further energy savings or performance increases will be realised by using stretched silicon inside the component that is surrounded by the gate instead of plain silicon.
Intel is "most proud" of the redesigned gate and for competitive reasons declined to provide further details on the materials.
"We've done thousands of experiments to determine the right materials to get the right electrical properties," said Mayberry.
"It's very valuable technology, so we are not disclosing the details of what those materials are."
The technology could be introduced in 32nm or 22nm chips. Intel has already set which transistor technologies it will use for its next-generation 45nm chips. This effectively means that users could expect it to turn up in devices by 2009-2011.
Mayberry is set to present the research findings on Tuesday at the 2006 Symposium on VLSI Technology in Honolulu.
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