Researchers at Texas Instruments claim to have developed a technique for producing microchips based on transistors using 0.07 micron channel lengths. Most current Intel processors are based on 0.25 micron processes and some manufacturers have perfected 0.18 micron chips. TI's technology advance will allow chip manufacturers to build more powerful processors by cramming more transistors into smaller devices. An Intel Celeron processor contains roughly 15 million transistors whereas a processor using 0.07 micron technology could contain 400 million. This is not the only advantage: power consumption is also reduced using the smaller process, and TI claims that such processors could operate at internal voltages of below 1v. In addition, the operating frequency of 0.07 micron chips can exceed 1GHz, vastly increasing the speed at which the devices run software. TI claims that the transistors on the processors are optimised for both digital and analogue functions. This would allow the company to use its proven expertise in DSP (digital signal processing) technology to integrate core logic and DSP functions on to the same die from the beginning of the production process, making system-on-a-chip devices much easier to produce. TI plans to begin mass production of 0.07 micron devices in 2001. One of the companies most likely to benefit from this advance is Sun. Under a long-standing deal, TI manufactures Sun's UltraSPARC family of processors which are used in high end workstations and servers. Thanks to TI's latest breakthrough, Sun's processor roadmap now promises a 1.5GHz UltraSparc in 2002.
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