Intel revealed today that it's made a major chip-making breakthrough that will let the company overcome one of the most serious obstacles to shrinking the size of its products. Intel has essentially eliminated electrical current leaking, which causes excess heat and power consumption, in its microprocessor designs. Thanks to the breakthrough, Intel's future microprocessors will be much smaller, run much cooler, consume less power, and offer much better performance.
Because the technique is a recent breakthrough, however, mainstream products won't employ it any time soon. The company expects to build microprocessors based on this new technology by 2007, however, or about three generations of microprocessors in the future. To give you an idea of how this new technology affects microprocessor design, consider the fact that Intel now makes 90 nanometer etchings on its chips; under the new design, these etchings will shrink to just 45 nanometers. To make this leap, Intel will also use an unnamed metal material in its new chip designs, sources say.
The importance of this breakthrough can't be overstated. In today's microprocessors, as much as 40 percent of power usage can be attributed to the electrical leakage this breakthrough solves. Because Intel is under increasing pressure from competitors such as AMD and IBM, the technology could also prove to be a major product differentiator.