Semiconductor giant Intel announced a new 3-D transistor design called Tri-Gate, which allows for higher performance and energy efficiency due to lower voltage leakage.

Intel says the revolutionary transistor is the first to go beyond two-dimensional planar transistor structure. In a press event at its Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters, Intel called the new Tri-Gate transistors the next step in Moore's Law.

Moore's Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, says every two years transistor density will double, while increasing functionality and performance and decreasing costs. The only limits are when circuits become so small that quantum mechanical effects start interfering with their function.

The Tri-Gate transistor is the result of a project started in 2002. It has 37 percent more performance than its predecessors while using less power, Intel claims. Intel's scientists and engineers have once again reinvented the transistor, this time utilizing the third dimension, Intel president and chief executive Paul Otellini. Amazing, world-shaping devices will be created from this capability as we advance Moore's Law into new realms.

The new transistor is a complete overhaul for Intel. The two-dimensional planar gate is replaced with a thin three-dimensional silicon fin that rises up vertically from the silicon substrate. Unlike the previous generation where control of the current was accomplished through one gate on top, in Tri-Gate it's done by putting a gate on three sides of the fin.

For years we have seen limits to how small transistors can get, Moore said in a statement. This change in the basic structure is a truly revolutionary approach, and one that should allow Moore's Law, and the historic pace of innovation, to continue.

Intel predicts these transistors will be ideal for mobile devices, which operate using less energy to switch back and forth. Ambrish Srivastava, analyst for BMO Capital Markets, says while the transistor is not a revolution, it does represent the next step.

Not quite, but an evolution for sure. And one that positions Intel with a lead in the particular type of transistors and one that should help Intel compete in the mobility space better, while maintaining its already dominant lead in servers, and enable further inroads in the graphics market. At its event today, Intel unveiled its own multi-gate technology for the 22-nanometer node, Srivastava said.

In recent years, Intel has faced an up-and-coming threat from ARM Holdings.  The Cambridge, England-based company designs processors for an increasing amount of tablets and smartphones,  including the iPhone and iPad. Doug Freedman, analyst at Gleacher & Company, says despite this announcement, ARM remains a threat.

As INTC continues to innovate its process technology (including 3D Gate Transistors at 22 nanometers), the added benefits are helpful but not yet game-changing in overcoming the embedded ARM threats in the tablet and smartphone markets, Freedman wrote in a note to investors.

Intel plans on putting Tri-Gate into high volume manufacturing. The transistor uses the 22-nanometer node process and it will be in an Intel chip codenamed Ivy Bridge.

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