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12/10/2008
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Intel Finishes Work On 32-nm Production Process

The method introduces the use of immersion lithography, a photographic process that uses a liquid film on the surface of silicon wafers in tracing circuit patterns.

Intel on Wednesday said it has finished development of its next-generation manufacturing process, which is expected to deliver starting late next year microprocessors that offer better performance and less energy consumption than the current generation of chips.

Intel plans to disclose details of its next production process next week at the International Electron Devices meeting in San Francisco. The process shrinks the size of circuitry on a chip to 32 nanometers, or 1 billionth of a meter, significantly boosting power without increasing energy consumption. Intel currently ships 45-nm processors.

Intel plans to introduce 32-nm products in the fourth quarter of next year. The chips, code-named Westmere, will be based on Intel's Core i7 microarchitecture, which was released this year.

Intel's next production process introduces the use of immersion lithography, a photographic process that uses a liquid film on the surface of silicon wafers in tracing circuit patterns. The process, which is used by IBM and Advanced Micro Devices in making their 45-nm chips, produces a higher resolution for defining circuitry.

Intel also plans to discuss the use of its second-generation "high-k" technology in the next production process. The advancement helps reduce energy consumption while boosting chip speeds. Intel uses high-k in its 45-nm processors.

Intel follows a strategy of releasing a new microarchitecture alternating with a next-generation manufacturing process about every 12 months.

Along with describing its 32-nm process, Intel will offer details on a variant in its 45-nm production process to produce low power system-on-chip products that would be used in handheld devices. Intel is working on lowering the power consumption of its Atom chip for use in smartphones and other devices. Atom is currently used in larger devices, such as netbooks, which are sub-$500 mini-laptops with screen sizes of 10 inches or less.

Intel won't be the only company offering production details. IBM and its partners, which include AMD and Freescale Semiconductor, are expected to discuss their efforts on 22-nm production.

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