Intel also plans to start 45nm production in 2008, and IBM has joined forces with Intel rival AMD to help develop its solution.
In addition to AMD, Big Blue is also working with Sony and Toshiba on the project.
Chip firms are already producing the first 65nm chips and the 45nm process allows them to pack more transistors on a chip to make it run faster.
The main stumbling block they have to overcome by packing so many on a chip is power leakage and resulting performance degradation.
To achieve the 45nm landmark, IBM has inserted new production technology into its state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing line in East Fishkill, New York.
TC Chen, vice-president of science and technology at IBM Research, said, “After more than 10 years of effort, we now have a way forward. With chip technology so pervasive in our everyday lives, this work will benefit people in many ways.”
The IBM technology, called “high-k metal gate”, substitutes a new material into a critical portion of the transistor that controls its primary on/off switching function.
The material provides superior electrical properties compared to its predecessor, enhancing the transistor’s function while also allowing the size of the transistor to be shrunk beyond limits being reached today.
As a result, the use of this material could allow the industry to continue on the path defined by “Moore’s Law,” the chip industry axiom that predicts a doubling of the number of transistors on a chip every 12-18 months, thereby allowing chip performance and function to increase as well.
The semiconductor industry has been able to maintain this rate of improvement for decades, but was reaching the limits of current technology, threatening a slowdown in further advancements.