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Thursday, September 22, 2005, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

New Intel process to deliver ultra-low power mobile chips

Intel, the world's largest chip maker and soon to be Apple supplier, is developing an ultra-low power version of its high-performance 65 nanometer (nm) logic manufacturing process that will allow it to produce very low-power chip for laptops and small-form factor devices.

This new ultra-low power 65 nm process will be the company's second process based on 65 nm process technology. It will provide Intel chip designers additional options in delivering the circuit density, performance and power consumption required by battery-operated devices, the company said this week.

To achieve these advancements, Intel made several modifications to the design of the transistor. Lost electricity leaking from these microscopic transistors, even when they are in their "off" state, is a problem that is a challenge for the entire industry.

According to the company, the modifications will result in significant reductions in the three major sources of transistor leakage: sub-threshold leakage, junction leakage and gate oxide leakage, which translates into lower power requirements and increased battery life.

"With the number of transistors on some chips exceeding one billion, it is clear that improvements made for individual transistors can multiply into huge benefits for the entire device," said Mark Bohr, director of Intel Process Architecture and Integration. "Test chips made on the ultra-low power 65nm process technology have shown transistor leakage reduction roughly 1000 times from our standard process."

Intel's 65 nm processes will feature transistors measuring only 35 nm in gate length, which it says will be the smallest and highest performing CMOS transistors in high-volume production. By comparison, the most advanced transistors in production today, found in Intel's Pentium 4 processors, measure 50nm. Small, fast transistors are the building blocks for very fast processors.

Building chips using the 65 nm processes will also allow Intel to double the number of transistors it can build on a single chip today.

The lack of high-performance, yet low power, PowerPC G5 chips from IBM has been cited as one of the major reasons for Apple's switch to Intel processors. The Mac maker, which has so far been unable to upgrade its professional PowerBook G4 laptops beyond 1.67GHz, hopes to ship Intel-based laptops by the middle of next year.

Intel said it would design future mobility platforms to take full advantage of both of its 65 nm manufacturing processes.