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AMD announces latest transistor breakthrough

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has developed a transistor with a gate length of 15 nanometres that can switch more than 3 trillion times per second

The AMD device is more than five times as compact as transistors in existing commercial chips, which have gate lengths of just under 100 nanometres (0.1 microns). The development of a transistor with 15-nanometer, or 0.015-micron.

Transistor gate length is related to, but not equivalent to, the commonly used measure of process size. The most advanced current technology has a process size of 0.13 microns, which means the lines and spaces on the chip's surface are 0.13 microns apart. The transistor gate lengths must be shorter than that to fit inside the lines, and current commercial chips use devices with gate lengths of around 0.1 micron.

By creating a much smaller basic building block for chips, AMD's 15-nanometre transistor heralds the way towards the development of faster and more complex microprocessors.

The new transistor will be profiled at the 2001 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in Washington, on 4 December.

At the IEDM conference Intel, AMD's largest rival, will propose the use of a new class of material, a High K gate dielectric, in place of the silicon oxide used today, to stop charge leakage from extremely small transistors.

A number of other breakthrough announcements from major semiconductor companies are also expected at the conference.

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