Intel Has No Plans For 10 Nanometer Chips

Summary

  • Intel began transitioning from silicon more than a decade ago.
  • They initially planned to switch in 2015.
  • Micron owns the non-silicon technology and might not be sympathetic to Intel.

In August of 2014, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) rolled out their Broadwell line of processors – the first to use the new 14 nanometer manufacturing process. I believe that Intel had planned for this to be the last node to use silicon technology. Why? Because they told us. In 2005, Intel announced that they had prioritized Indium Antimonide (“InSb” for short) as a leading contender to replace silicon in transistors. From the press release:

The results of this research reinforce our confidence in being able to continue to follow Moore’s Law beyond 2015. As was the case with other Intel technical advancements, we expect these new materials will enhance the future of silicon-based semiconductors.

They expected silicon to run out of gas in 2015 and began the expensive process to replace it more than a decade earlier. An article at the MIT Technology Review publication explains the complexities well: InSb is not an easy material with which to work and certainly not a foregone conclusion. But there is a noteworthy advantage that was outlined:

Compound semiconductors also have optical properties that could help speed up communication between transistors on a chip and multiple chips within a device. These materials easily emit and detect light – a characteristic that has been studied and improved for decades, says David Hodges, electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. Therefore, he says, light emitters and detectors made of compound materials could potentially replace copper wires, which are a major “impediment of speed.”

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