San Jose, CALIF. — Intel Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of computer chips, says it has built the world’s smallest and fastest transistor – a milestone that will allow the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company to build within the next five or 10 years microprocessors that will be 10 times more powerful than the ones available today.
Intel officials planned to share details of the breakthrough Monday in San Francisco at the International Electron Devices Meeting, a technical conference for semiconductor engineers and scientists.
Chips, which are the brains of computers, contain transistors that act like switches controlling the flow of data. The smaller the transistors, the faster the chips can perform.
Today’s fastest chip on the market, Intel’s Pentium 4, squeezes 42 million transistors onto a sliver of silicon. With the latest tiny transistors, future chips could have 400 million or more transistors. The new transistors, Intel said, are .03 microns wide, or about three atoms thick. A pile of 100,000 of them would equal the thickness of a sheet of paper, the company said.
“Semiconductors have been on this growth curve for a long time, and Intel has validated that we’ll be able to continue on this path,” said Jim Handy, a chief analyst with Dataquest.
Other semiconductor manufacturers, such as IBM Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., have all been locked in a race with Intel to create faster, smaller chips. For the moment, Intel is holding the crown.