Intel, IBM announce insulation "overhaul" for faster, cooler chips

Intel and IBM are acting oh-so-smug right now about their respective achievements in insulating 45nm transistors, allowing the chips to run faster, leak less power and generate less heat. Intel, which hinted at such improvements in June, knocked out the first press announcement, promising to start implementing the technology in the second half of 2007, and IBM scrambled to catch up, announcing that it was "on the verge" of a similar discovery, and was working with AMD to start building comparable chips in Q1 2008. Intel is calling this the "biggest change in computer chips in 40 years," and while that sounds like hyperbole to us, there's no denying that 45nm is the new hotness, and bully for Intel for making it work. The actual technology -- at least Intel's method -- replaces the silicon dioxide insulators which leak too much energy when sliced too thin, but when made thicker reduce the electrical charge that passes through, reducing performance. Now Intel is using a hafnium-based insulator, which improves conductivity and reduces leakage simultaneously. Just for kicks, Intel is also tossing in a new metal alloy for its gate electrode, to replace the old silicon gate. IBM confirmed it is also using hafnium insulators, but couldn't help getting in a cheap-shot metaphor: "It's the difference between can openers and Ferraris," according to Bernard S. Meyerson, VP and chief technologit for systems and technology at IBM. Man, those technologists can really bring the smack.

[Thanks, Lee G.]