Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Intel IBM Hardware Technology

Intel, IBM Announce Chip Breakthrough 112

Posted by kdawson
from the dueling-press-releases dept.
Intel announced a major breakthrough in microprocessor design Friday that will allow it to keep on the curve of Moore's Law a while longer. IBM, working with AMD, rushed out a press release announcing essentially equivalent advances. Both companies said they will be using alloys of hafnium as insulating layers, replacing the silicon dioxide that has been used for more than 40 years. The New York Times story (and coverage from the AP and others) features he-said, she-said commentary from dueling analysts. If there is a consensus, it's that Intel is 6 or more months ahead for the next generation. IBM vigorously disputes this, saying that they and AMD are simply working in a different part of the processor market — concentrating on the high-end server space, as opposed to the portable, low-power end.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Intel, IBM Announce Chip Breakthrough

Comments Filter:
  • by zero-one (79216) <jonwpayne&gmail,com> on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:21PM (#17785062) Homepage
    With this breakthrough and that other one [slashdot.org] perhaps Moore's Law needs updating.
    • This is a big deal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by noopm (982584) * on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:27PM (#17785118) Journal
      As a graduate student researching this field, this is an amazing bit of news! - The intel high-k announcement is a *major* breakthrough, and a new, disruptive technology for chip technology especially as far as the the introduction of new materials in the Fab are concerned (and trust me, Fab engineers are paranoid about such kinds of shifts). It essentially involves replacing the SiO2 dielectric gate insulator with a new class of materials, very likely Nitrided Hafnium Silicates (though they have not publicly acknowledged the silicate part, they just mention it as a compound of Hafnium - it is the leading contender in the field).

      The high-k film can be made physically thicker than the very thin SiO2 layer (which is only around 12 Angstroms thin at the moment, making it leak like a sieve) without messing up the capacitance requirements for the transistor. The introduction of new metal gate instead of the classic poly-crystalline silicon (called poly) is also abig deal, and there is greater secrecy on what those materials are. The wikipedia article on high-k has the details. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-k_Dielectric [wikipedia.org]
      • by obious (945774)
        As an CompE undergrad, my studies revolving around SiO2 have all of a sudden become history lessons
      • So back to the roots huh? MOSFETS had that first M for a reason ;)
      • Great... I work in the nuke industry. A bigger demand for hafnium is going to make our subs cost like 3 zillion dollars instead of 2 zillion :P
      • by rbarreira (836272)
        What do you think about this post? [slashdot.org]
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by noopm (982584) *
          > What do you think about
          > http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=21912 8&cid=17787848 [slashdot.org]

          HfO2/Hf Silicates is mature technology (Obviously, else they wouldn't be in production this year) - however, I disagree with it having been mature for more than 10 years. There were all sorts of compatibility problems with respect to the new layer of "foreign materials" killing the mobility of the electrons responsible for the transistor action in the absence of the kind of relatively perfect interfa
    • by kharchenko (303729) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @05:20PM (#17785496)
      Yes, Moores' law didn't account for dupe postings. If we could just post this news a few more times today we could jump decades ahead in terms of transistor density! Keep up the pace dear editors :)
      • Why it's Moore's Law a law? It just sounds like a theory to me, it just has been surprisingly accurate to date, that's all.
        • "Why it's Moore's Law a law? It just sounds like a theory to me, it just has been surprisingly accurate to date, that's all."

          Theories that remain suprisingly accurate over time tend to be known as laws. Unlike, say, axioms, where one counterexample could break a paradigm, a law only has to work often enough to be useful. If a prediction works 95% of the time,and fails to account for 5% of the data, we can still call that a law. Feel free to call it Moore's pretty damn good conjecture. It's not i
    • by ozbird (127571)
      ... perhaps Moore's Law needs updating.

      Moore's "Law" isn't - it's more a rule-of-thumb.
  • Not news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:23PM (#17785072) Homepage
    Sorry but why is this being reported again now? We already knew Intel and IBM had achieved a 45nm process and that it would be coming to mass-market chips in 2007-08. It's 2007 and it's here. Hooray and all that, but is a company following through on its claims really so shocking that it constitutes being reported again... twice [slashdot.org]?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by unc0nn3ct3d (952682)
      pretty sure this article was more about the switch to Hafnium as an insulator as apposed to the 45nm technology. Also the fact that they are using a new silicon substrate over the existing standard...
      • The hafnium and high-k metal gates are pre-requisites for the 45nm process. The two articles highlighted might vary somewhat in focus but they're definitely reporting the same thing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bender_ (179208)

          That is not true. There will be a number of companies doing 45nm without high-k and metal gates.
          • Well whether they use that particular method or not, the point is that the existing materials Intel are using for the 65nm process apparently aren't up to the task at the 45nm scale. If that's wrong well I guess I've been misled by the articles I've read on the subject.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Bender_ (179208)

              The alternative would have been just to shrink the devices, gain less on performance and use circuit techniques to battle parasitic power consumption. That is what most companies in cost sensitive markets are going to do.
      • Hhehe, and of course If I would have read the other article would have seen it too was about hafnium and the new substrate as well.. So I retract my above statement, you're comment about this not being news is totally correct..
    • > "is a company following through on its claims really so shocking"

      Yes. Yes it is
  • by Prysorra (1040518) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:24PM (#17785088)
    But can they keep up with Lays? :D
  • But how much further will that get them before RFI makes it a moot point? At that small of a pathway, I'd think that random radio signals and electrical noise would be disastrous.
    Also, how well does this survive long term? Is it resistant to electromigration [wikipedia.org] over time?
    All great to hear, but I'm not sure how long this will let them keep pace with Moore's law, at best it buys a couple more years of progress on current processor designs I guess.
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Good point. That is the very reason NASA sticks to 386 and earlier vintage computers from what I have read. Outside of the insulating atmosphere, cosmic rays pass throuh and have a tendency to be larger then the cicuit gap. This makes for some interesting and adverse additions to any computation.
      Every now and then the normal press reports new advances in biological comuters, light based, heck I even read of a wooden one once... Nothing it seems ever comes of it though exce
      • NASA sends up several thinkpads with every shuttle launch. They have been doing so since 1993, and they have upgraded many times to more modern machines. STS-114 was the first to fly several A31p thinkpads with 1.8Ghz p4s.

        For the mars missions and things like it, radiation hardened processors like the RAD750 are used. It seems that everything in use is at least pentium class.
        • by GigsVT (208848)
          The shuttle internal systems run on obselete crap. That's why they send up laptops.
          • by pnewhook (788591) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @07:13PM (#17786104)
            No the shuttle and station run on older stuff because those processors are radiation immune, and they are critical systems that cannot crash. The laptops are for everyday work that do not interface to the shuttles systems. If they crash from the radiation, the astronauts simply put it aside and grab another one.
            • by GigsVT (208848)
              The shuttle used hand woven magnetic core memory until 1990.

              It's obselete crap, even after the 1990 upgrade. It was designed in the 60s and the only reason it wasn't decomissioned 3 decades ago was political, no one wanted to admit they dumped billions of dollars down the toilet.
              • by pnewhook (788591)

                The shuttle used hand woven magnetic core memory until 1990. It's obselete crap, even after the 1990 upgrade. It was designed in the 60s and the only reason it wasn't decomissioned 3 decades ago was political, no one wanted to admit they dumped billions of dollars down the toilet.

                You should really research things before placing an opinion. It would really reduce the amount of bullshit you write.

                You can't really fly anything beyond Pentium class of processor because you get radiation upsets. Even at tha

                • by GigsVT (208848)
                  G3 class PowerPCs can be flown, that's 300Mhz or so.
                  • by pnewhook (788591)

                    G3 class PowerPCs can be flown, that's 300Mhz or so.
                    Yes a G3 class processor is flown, but not at 300MHz - that's the terrestrial version (the PPC 750). The space version is radiation hardened by derating the clock to 166MHz, and removing the off board cache. As a result, the effective speed is about the same as a Pentium.
                • by afidel (530433)
                  It would seem to me that using a processor like the MIPS processors used in the HP Nonstop platform would be the ideal situation, all path's are ECC'd and all processing operations are done by two cores and the results are checked to make sure they match, this should deal with everything short of being in a solar flare where the error rate exceeds the ability of the systems to correct.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by mrhartwig (61215)
                The shuttle used hand woven magnetic core memory until 1990.

                Yep. Stable, information-retaining (unfortunately, it even retains info after immersion in seawater), and basically immune to cosmic ray disruptions. Which doesn't require a lot of error-correction circuitry.... Not terribly data-dense or fast compared to semiconductor (part of the reason to replace it, after all) but it works.

                It was designed in the 60s...

                Actually, the computers themselves were designed the 70s, with updates in the 80s; core mem
                • by GigsVT (208848)
                  They only upgraded a few parts of it in 90. Just like the rest of the shuttle, it's a mix of obselete materials and components, with newer stuff band-aided on where possible. It's a junkpile.

                  Core memory wasn't used until the late 50s BTW. They used stuff like delay lines in the 40s and early 50s.
          • by stevesliva (648202) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @07:43PM (#17786300) Journal

            The shuttle internal systems run on obselete crap.
            Obselete, incredibly reliable, utterly adequate rock-solid gold. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Launching enormous rockets with software control is possible to screw up [wikipedia.org]. Given the choice, I'd rather fly with the proven computers.
            • by GigsVT (208848)
              That's why they replaced some of the most obselete parts of it (like the hand woven magnetic core memory) in 1990, right?

              It's crap. Everyone knows it's crap. It would have been shelved a very long time ago if it weren't for politics.

              Do you refuse to use any bank that doesn't use a Univac? You realize Univac came out 10 years before the shuttle computer was designed, right? That's how obselete the shuttle computer is.
              • You realize Univac came out 10 years before the shuttle computer was designed, right? That's how obselete the shuttle computer is.
                In actuality, it's 10 years more obsolete than the Shuttle's computers, and as we all should know, ten years is an eternity in the computer world.

                Yes, if you must know, I thought your comment deserved another with an equally absurd thesis.
                • by mrhartwig (61215)
                  Oh, yeah -- I can be more absurd than you. Since all computers are based on transistors, we should scrap them all. They are, after all, based on technology designed in the 1940s and absolutely must be obsolete.

                  Nyah, nyah.

                  interesting footnote
                  I learned something while looking in Wikipedia to find out when the "Univac" (there were more than one, of course) was released so I could compare it to the IBM System/360 (from which design, eventually, came the Shuttle CPUs). UNIVAC I, from 1951, used tanks of liqu

                  • To think we've gone from mercury memory to the RoHS banning anything remotely fun in electronics...progress is pretty amazing. ;)
              • The difference between banking on a Univac and flying a spaceship with a radiation-hardened 386 is that improvements on the 386 aren't necessarily reflected in spaceship-flying performance, whereas improvements on the Univac show distinct benefits in banking. The laws of physics work just like they did the first time we put a shuttle in space; on the other hand, transaction volume and reporting complexity has increased tremendously since the first mechanical accounting machines. When we build a new shuttle
    • by myurr (468709)
      But that may be all it takes. It's not like they're going to suddenly pack up their bags and stop researching this stuff. Each advance only ever buys time before the next advance is required.
    • by ssista537 (991500)
      One reason why the industry moved to Cu interconnects as compared to Al is due to lower electromigration. Due to the specific microstructure in Cu and also due to its low bulk diffusion it is much more resistant to Electromigration. Having said that as the nodes start shrinking this might become a problem in the future........ May not be at the 45 nm node though.
    • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:55PM (#17785328)
      There are many, many people spending their careers solving those types of problems.

      It's not really interesting when someone does something in 45nm. It's interesting when enough of the problems with 45nm are solved for it to actually be practical to make 45nm-based chips.

      So, the answer to your question is: someone figured it out already.

      Electromigration is only an issue at high current densities. For clarification, "high" is defined as the density where electromigration becomes an issue. The solution is use less current, use more metal so the current is less dense, or find a material that can handle higher current density.
      • Electromigration takes some time to show up though. If they are just announcing this process now, what problems are going to show up 3, 4, 5 years down the road?
        • by Kohath (38547)
          It depends on whether the engineers do their jobs and check their current density. If they do, no problem. If not, some percentage of the chips with eventually fail. Worrying about it doesn't help. Engineers checking it is the only thing that helps.
    • by cheezedawg (413482) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @05:40PM (#17785604) Journal
      Golly- I hope that all of the PhDs working on Intel's 45nm process are reading /. today. I bet they never thought about that.
    • by elteck (874753)
      RFI: Actually the smaller te circuit, the better it's RF Immunity, because the smaller the wiring the less effective its antenna efficiency is.
      But I can assure you, since we crossed the 100MHz barrier, a lot has been done to improve RF immunity. Todays system boards and chips are RF-designs, also to keep reflections small and maintain signal integrity. All traces are transmission lines, which have good RF-Immunity as well.

      Electro migration: This is the reason why switching currents (also known as shoot thro
    • by Manchot (847225)
      Testing for electromigration issues is standard operating procedure for companies like Intel. They basically pump insanely high amounts of current densities through their devices and see how long they take to fail. Then, they can use that figure to extrapolate how long they'll take to fail under normal conditions. Basically, they can test years worth of damage in days. Asking whether Intel checks for this is like asking whether car companies check to see if the engines start up before selling them. Of cours
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:25PM (#17785100) Homepage Journal
    Welcome to the club! On your application as editor, did you have to swear that you don't actually read slashdot as a precondition for employment like all the other editors?
    • by dreddnott (555950)
      Hey now, you should be positively thanking him. The previous posting had an awful summary that didn't mention IBM, AMD, or the fact that the new High-K replacement was based on hafnium (they misspelled it as halfnium in the actual article, which was even worse).

      At least with this summary we'll get cool arguments about Intel vs. AMD and IBM and conspiracy theories and stuff.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by QuickFox (311231)

        they misspelled it as halfnium
        That's no misspelling, it is halfnium! You could have understood this yourself, if you hadn't been so quick to dole out criticism, and instead had spent a second considering the fact that they reduced the size from 90 nm to 45 nm.
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)
      apart from the dupe, kdawson is possibly the best editor they have. I for one, blame our new firehose overlords - so its our fault for voting for 2 of the many posts about this news.
  • by farker haiku (883529) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:26PM (#17785106) Journal
    here [nytimes.com]
  • Axiom? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumith (983060) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:26PM (#17785112)

    The Intel announcement is new evidence that the chip maker is maintaining the pace of Moore's Law, the technology axiom

    I thought it's an empiric law; the definition of axiom is quite different from that.

    Intel said it had already manufactured prototype microprocessor chips in the new 45-nanometer process that run on three major operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

    Again, I thought it's the operating systems who run on microprocessors, not vice-versa. And I [not being a kernel developer, though] can't see any reason for an OS to stop functioning on a new processor model if the architecture is intact and no serious hardware-level bugs are introduced.

    • by forkazoo (138186)

      Intel said it had already manufactured prototype microprocessor chips in the new 45-nanometer process that run on three major operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

      Again, I thought it's the operating systems who run on microprocessors, not vice-versa. And I [not being a kernel developer, though] can't see any reason for an OS to stop functioning on a new processor model if the architecture is intact and no serious hardware-level bugs are introduced.

      Well, yeah. That's pretty much the point. Usua

    • The OS'es running on the prototypes is probably meant to show that there are functioning processors made using the new process, as opposed to a couple transistors in a lab. A kind of proof this isn't just vaporware to boost stock prices.
    • by igrokme (254668)
      To Moore and logicians, it's an empiric law. To many business plans (Intel's and AMD's not the least), and arguably to the technology sector as a whole, it has been made axiomatic.

      Moore himself has argued against this usage but he does not control what assumptions people stake their business plans on, even when they are based on his empiric laws.
    • If Moore's law was an axiom, we would probably have to redefine time again.
  • Take that Gordon Moore!
    And in your face space coyote!
  • Rename? (Score:5, Funny)

    by somegeekynick (1011759) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @04:47PM (#17785264)
    What, now Silicon Valley becomes Hafnium Valley?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sure. And in another 30 years or so, it'll be Quaternium Valley. Oh wait [wikipedia.org], that can't be right...
    • What, now Silicon Valley becomes Hafnium Valley?

      I know silicon is a pretty common element, how difficult is it to find hafnium? If it is rare, could this lead to super expensive chips?
      • by Grishnakh (216268)
        Probably not. From my understanding of this new tech, silicon will remain the substrate of the chips. Hafnium is only used as an insulating material layered on the top. So the quantities of hafnium will be extremely small in relation to the amount of silicon. Along with a smaller (45nm) process, the total amount of hafnium in a single chip should be quite small.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Mspangler (770054)
        From webelements:

        "Most zirconium minerals contain 1 to 3% hafnium. Hafnium is a ductile metal with a brilliant silver lustre. Its properties are influenced considerably by the impurities of zirconium present. Of all the elements, zirconium and hafnium are two of the most difficult to separate. Hafnium is a Group 4 transition element.

        Because hafnium has a good absorption cross section for thermal neutrons (almost 600 times that of zirconium), has excellent mechanical properties, and is extremely corrosion re
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by autophile (640621)

      What, now Silicon Valley becomes Hafnium Valley?

      Let's hope that real estate prices get cut in haf :(

      --Rob

  • Whaa? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Godji (957148) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @05:03PM (#17785388) Homepage
    If there is a consensus, it's that Intel is 6 or more months ahead for the next generation. IBM vigorously disputes this, saying that they and AMD are simply working in a different part of the processor market

    Didn't read TFA, but is it possible to have a consensus with one party vigorously disputing it?
    • They have a consensus about disputing each other. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by UltraAyla (828879)
      It would seem to be consensus of the analysts, but who knows how accurate that is if one company is disputing the information leading to the consensus.
  • by mschuyler (197441) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @05:31PM (#17785552) Homepage Journal
    The funny thing about this is that every few weeks you read some article that says, "Yup! That's it! We simply cannot get any more out of Moore's Law! It's dead."

    Then a couple weeks later someone says, "Yup! We're gonna squeeze a few more years out of Moore's law. New advance! It isn't dead!"

    Moore's Law is like the Energizer Bunny. It just keep's going.
    • I think they (Intel) estimated at some point that the Moore's law would work at least to 2015. At that point they would need to start working with something smaller than atoms to keep it up.

      But of course the processor development can still continue after that. We could for example stack many layers on each other to get a 3d chip.

      Or who knows if we learn how to manipulate the particles of the atoms (or something similar) and create a chip using those.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)
      "Moore's Law is like the Energizer Bunny. It just keep's going."

      Moore's Law is like the inappropriate apostrophe. It just won't die.
  • Silicon is inferior to industrial diamonds in so many ways, I'm wondering when they will start being used in processor design.... read about it years ago, so perhaps this is the first step towards.
  • Welcome to Hafnium Valley
  • this might be a good time to put some money into your local Hafnium mine.
  • Hmm, I don't know if you have noticed, but the old expression in silico will now have to be dropped...

    In ferro perhaps!
  • Keep it away from stray neutrons! (someone had to say it)
  • Finally... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by IorDMUX (870522)
    Well, it's about time. Hafnium oxide dielectrics were the talk of the semiconductor research world in the early/mid 90's. Big-time chip manufacturers refused to adopt the technology, though, hoping that some technology that didn't require the re-vamping of an entire fabrication facility would come along and magically reduce gate oxide lekage current.

    The technology is fairly mature by now (from a research standpoint), so the only "news" is that the major manufacturers have finally realized that it is th
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      How long has it been since the early '90s?

      How long do US patents last?

      Think it's a coincidence?
  • While advances in chip technology is indeed good news, this needs to be backed up by equivalent advances in new age applications. After all who would want more firepower behind the same old MS-Office or chat client.

    My take is that the immense number crunching power of these new age chips should be directed towards a new generation of data compression/de-compression applications based on newer algorithms. This will allow intense video/grahpics based applications like Metaverse/SecondLife to run elegantly and

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

Working...