Friday, May 6, 2011

Can RF Benefit from 3D Transistor Technology?

The buzz this week was of course the big announcement from Intel that all their new processors will use 3D transistor technology. Their "Tri-Gate" transistor that will allow the company to keep shrinking chips and keep up with Moore's Law which for a while looked to be an impossibility in the near future. Intel says the transistors will use 50 percent less power, conduct more current and provide 37 percent more speed than their 2D transistors while only adding an estimated 2-3 percent cost to existing silicon wafers. This isn't future technology any more as Intel says the it will be used its 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs, going into mass production in the second half of the year and going forward on future platforms.

If you have not already seen it, the Tri-Gate transistor is really a FinFET which was invented about 10 years ago. The gate metal wraps around the active channel on three sides of the fin like structure of Si allowing it to better control the current. It has less leakage in the off state and allows better current flow in the on state making the FET more efficient. Here is the nice video Intel released showing how it works.

FinFET transistors suffer from stronger device parasitics compared to planar bulk transistors and tend to have lower cutoff frequencies. However, the improved performance of FinFET transistors is motivation for more work in this area, especially for reducing power consumption. There have been some papers on RF FinFETs - many of them on dual gate structures instead of Tri-Gate but the results seem limited. Has anyone seen some more recent work with RF FinFETs/Tri-Gate devices?

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