AMD Details its Future Chips

The chipmaker invests in nickel as an alternative to polysilicon to advance its next generation transistors and Flash memory.AMD Delivers New Athlon Server Chip
Posted December 10, 2002
By

Michael Singer


SAN FRANCISCO -- Advanced Micro Devices Monday revealed a little-known fact about the company - its R&D designers are into heavy metal.

While its archrival Intel claims silicon will continue to be the dominant catalyst for chips, AMD said it is looking at alternatives to polysilicon, such as nickel, as a way to create better transistors and memory in computers.

At the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) here, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based semiconductor maker began outlining its strategy for its future cell structures with the release of six technical papers. The company says aspects of the research could begin popping up in products as early as 2005.

"AMD labs are already well into development of next generation transistor and memory technologies that, once perfected, will power our customers' products to unprecedented levels of performance," said AMD vice president of process technology development Craig Sander.

With the help of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, AMD said its research proves their new transistor device type could replace today's planar transistors as the industry standard for high-performance logic chips. The company released three technical papers outlining recent achievements in their ongoing research.

Known in the microchip industry as a Fin Field Effect Transistor (FinFET), AMD said its new structure uses a single vertical silicon "fin" to create two gates instead of one. The company said this process doubles the electrical current that can be sent through the transistor and improves the transistor's switching characteristics. In September, AMD demonstrated a functioning FinFET with a gate length of 10 nanometers (nm) , or 10 billionths of a meter.

"We expect our transistor performance goals will require gates below 15nm by the end of the decade, presenting some exciting opportunities for R&D," said Sander. "Multi-gate transistor structures such as our version of FinFET hold the key to achieving next generation performance, while continuing to use many of our existing manufacturing methods."

AMD also presented two papers on the company's success in building transistors with gates made from metal, rather than polysilicon.

The company said a nickel-based gate could increase transistor performance by improving electrical current flow. AMD said metal gates have the potential to eliminate the practice of placing impurities in the channel under the transistor's gate to achieve optimum switching characteristics. The removal of these impurities results in better electrical current flow. The company said the nickel-based gates are cheaper to make than other metal gate technologies being investigated in the industry.

The company estimates the new research findings should be implemented in its fabrication processes around 2005.

In the realm of Flash memory, AMD is presented a paper in conjunction with Stanford University that demonstrates a new Flash memory cell structure that says making Flash memory smaller than the 65nm generation is possible.

The new structure uses minute "nanowires" of polysilicon measuring as small as 5nm wide to store an electrical charge. AMD said the technology could enable larger amounts of memory to be incorporated into a single Flash memory chip, while increasing speed and reducing the power needed to read and write to the cell.






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