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Intel Granted Patent for Germanium Nanowire Transistors

By - Source: USPTO | B 34 comments

Intel was granted a patent that covers the use of germanium as a material choice for compound semiconductors that promise faster processors and reduced power consumption.

Submitted as a patent application in April of 2010, the company first discussed a related invention at the 2010 International Electron Devices Meeting. Intel disclosed that it had developed P-channel transistors made from germanium, which the company said could be combined with complementary III-V N-channel transistors to form a suitable CMOS architecture. The focus on germanium is largely due to the fact that it is more mobile than silicon.

The patent itself reveals the use of a "germanium nanowire channel and the SiGe anchoring regions [that] are formed simultaneously through preferential Si oxidation of epitaxial Silicon Germanium epi layer." Intel leverages a silicon fin as a "template" to align germanium nanowires on a chip while silicon-germanium anchors are used to mount to a silicon substrate. Germanium is likely to become a much more critical material in chip manufacturing in the future, as such nanowires "provide better control of short channel effects such as sub threshold slop and drain induced barrier lowering," the patent states.

The extensive use of germanium has been discussed by the semiconductor industry for more than a decade, while first sophisticated germanium processors were predicted 15 years ago to arrive in the 2007 - 2008 time frame (similarly, the first graphene processors are now forecast to become available around 2020 - 2025). The history even goes back to 1959, when Jack Kilby built a microchip with germanium, but it was Intel-co-founder Robert Noyce who chose silicon and overcame. Back then, germanium was found to be limited by greater current leakage. Over the past ten years, the interest in germanium as a transistor material has increased significantly and has resulted in developments such as IBM's 500 GHz GPU.

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    builder4 , February 13, 2012 12:42 PM
    Now's the time to buy shares in germanium mining companies.
  • 12 Hide
    back_by_demand , February 13, 2012 12:50 PM
    Hang on, wind that back...

    500GHz CPU?

    WANT ONE!!!
  • 11 Hide
    bustapr , February 13, 2012 12:51 PM
    back_by_demandHang on, wind that back...500GHz CPU?WANT ONE!!!

    Quote:
    has resulted in developments such as IBM's 500 GHz GPU.


Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    nforce4max , February 13, 2012 12:31 PM
    At least there is some progress.
  • 21 Hide
    builder4 , February 13, 2012 12:42 PM
    Now's the time to buy shares in germanium mining companies.
  • 12 Hide
    back_by_demand , February 13, 2012 12:50 PM
    Hang on, wind that back...

    500GHz CPU?

    WANT ONE!!!
  • 11 Hide
    bustapr , February 13, 2012 12:51 PM
    back_by_demandHang on, wind that back...500GHz CPU?WANT ONE!!!

    Quote:
    has resulted in developments such as IBM's 500 GHz GPU.


  • 7 Hide
    alikum , February 13, 2012 12:54 PM
    Germanium .... From Germany? Discovered by a German?
  • 9 Hide
    Onus , February 13, 2012 12:56 PM
    Iirc, germanium was pretty much abandoned in analog circuits because it was much more prone to "thermal runaway" than silicon. Has this issue been solved, or is it simply not relevant? What are the thermal limits on these germanium circuits?
  • 1 Hide
    bustapr , February 13, 2012 12:57 PM
    Im all up for progress and anything that makes Ivy Bridge's tri-gate transistors better, but how were they granted a patent for something they didnt create and werent the first to use commercially?
  • 3 Hide
    bustapr , February 13, 2012 12:59 PM
    jtt283Iirc, germanium was pretty much abandoned in analog circuits because it was much more prone to "thermal runaway" than silicon. Has this issue been solved, or is it simply not relevant? What are the thermal limits on these germanium circuits?

    in nanotech, the length of the bridge in transistors is very small. So small that the currents flow in a straight line from source to drain as opposed to micro wires where the currents ricocheted towards the drains.
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , February 13, 2012 1:03 PM
    Progress?? How can anyone mention progress when a private company is granted patent on progress?
  • 6 Hide
    jaybus , February 13, 2012 1:11 PM
    bustaprIm all up for progress and anything that makes Ivy Bridge's tri-gate transistors better, but how were they granted a patent for something they didnt create and werent the first to use commercially?

    The germanium transistor was invented in 1948, but their invention is a germanium transistor in combination such that it is a suitable CMOS structure.
  • 0 Hide
    alyoshka , February 13, 2012 1:13 PM
    And that link is already 6 years old... dates back to 2006.... Man, I wasn't even a member then...
  • 3 Hide
    back_by_demand , February 13, 2012 1:14 PM
    bustaprEpic reading fail


    Duley noted, however...

    STILL WANT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 0 Hide
    juanc , February 13, 2012 1:33 PM
    Given the lower threshold I knew we were going back to the future at some point.
  • 3 Hide
    aevm , February 13, 2012 1:41 PM
    alikumGermanium .... From Germany? Discovered by a German?


    Yes, it was discovered by a German chemist, in a mine in Germany.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clemens_Winkler

    It's not the only one like that either. Polonium, Francium, Scandium, Californium, Europium, Americium...
  • -4 Hide
    tburns1 , February 13, 2012 1:53 PM
    I don't know what you said, but you said it!
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , February 13, 2012 2:05 PM
    aevmYes, it was discovered by a German chemist http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clemens_Winkler

    By any chance, the Fonz's dad?
  • 3 Hide
    bustapr , February 13, 2012 2:15 PM
    jtt283Iirc, germanium was pretty much abandoned in analog circuits because it was much more prone to "thermal runaway" than silicon. Has this issue been solved, or is it simply not relevant? What are the thermal limits on these germanium circuits?

    i noticed my explanation was a little unfinished. what I tried to say is that in microtransistors(and similar sizes) the current ricochets getting from the source to the drain, generating lots of heat on the way and losing part of the energy with which it started. In Nanotransistors the distance between the drain and source is so small that the current travels in a straight line at the bridge very fast and not generating any heat(heat is generated at the source and drain connections to the bridge for the resistive requirements of the transistor) in the bridge and no loss of energy on the way. So the problem with germanium losing too much energy is no longer visible in todays nanotech.

    I feel like I spoke chinese, but i still hope you understood.
  • 0 Hide
    freggo , February 13, 2012 2:31 PM
    alikumGermanium .... From Germany? Discovered by a German?


    Yes, by a German chemist.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clemens_Winkler


  • 1 Hide
    freggo , February 13, 2012 2:33 PM
    Sorry... should have read thru the replies first before duplicating an answer already given in even more detail.
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