IBM says its new transistor architecture will reduce power consumption and increase performance, but don’t expect to have it in your hand any time soon.

Big Blue unveiled the Double Gate transistor at the International Electronic Device meeting on Monday in Washington. Scott Crowder, program manager of CMOS logic technology development IBM Microelectronics, says instead of having a gate at the top of a channel, the channel has been turned on its side and gates have been placed on both sides.

“If I have two gates I have more control over the on and off switch as well as having twice as much area for the current to flow. You get twice as much current and you get better control over the off state so you can shrink the channel length, which is the driving performance scale metric further,” Crowder says.

“You can basically increase the performance 25 to 50 per cent as well as reducing the compasitence of the gate, which allows you to reduce the power.”

Last week Intel Corp. announced a strategy whereby it would release Terahertz processors to reduce gate leakage and power consumption, but not until 2005 at the earliest.

Crowder says while this is a high priority for IBM, it is one of a number of areas it is focusing on. At the moment there are about 15 people working on the technology and it isn’t expected to reach the market until the second half of the decade.

According to Max Baron, principal analyst for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based MicroDesign Resources, reducing heat is very important from a financial point of view. He says increasing the mean time between failure improves the reliability.

“Think of embedded devices like cellular base stations or switching boxes that people put on prairies,” says Baron. “If you put things in a remote location or even inside the city, you don’t want to visit them, so that translates directly into money.”

Baron adds the lower the temperature the more you can pack in one box.

“As soon as the number of users or channel that you’re serving goes up, you need more performance. You want to be able to deliver that performance in ever decreasing sizes,” Baron says.

While Baron hasn’t seen IBM research, he says if its performance claim is true it is a significant ahcievement.

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