Future CPUs could use 85% fewer transistors

Future CPUs could use 85% fewer transistors

A team of researchers from the University of Technology in Vienna has created an evolution of the most important unit of information technology: the transistor. Drawing on the germanium (Ge) element, it has developed a new adaptive transistor design capable of changing its configuration on the fly according to workload requirements. The potential is enormous, as it could allow up to 85% fewer transistors to be used than current approaches. Also, with fewer transistors operating for the same job, power consumption and temperatures will decrease, which in turn allows for a higher frequency and performance scale.

Transistors - and in particular Field Effect Transistors (FETs) - are the fundamental units of semiconductor design. Although transistors can take on many different functions, the latter are inherently simple. It is by adding many small and simple transistors together (into integrated circuits) that higher level performance and more complex workloads can be unlocked.

Referring to Intel's "tick-tock" strategy, a tock (microarchitecture change) essentially corresponds to the performance improvements that can be achieved by rearranging and redesigning the transistor blocks. One tick (a change in the manufacturing node) increases the amount of transistors available to engineers to use in increasingly complex circuits. The demise of Intel's tick-tock strategy shows that advances in transistor density are becoming more difficult to achieve. Furthermore, while materials and design research have come up with many ways to improve transistors, their fundamental design remains unchanged. What benefits could come from redesigning the transistor?

if (jQuery ("# ​​crm_srl-th_hardware_d_mh2_1"). is (": visible")) {console.log ("Edinet ADV adding zone: tag crm_srl-th_hardware_d_mh2_1 slot id: th_hardware_d_mh2"); } Professor Walter Weber said: “Arithmetic operations, which previously required 160 transistors, are possible with 24 transistors due to this greater adaptability. In this way, the speed and energy efficiency of the circuits can also be significantly increased ". Dr Masiar Sistani added: “We connect two electrodes with an extremely thin germanium wire, via extremely clean, high quality interfaces. Above the germanium segment, we place a gate electrode like those found in conventional transistors. What is decisive is that our transistor is equipped with an additional control electrode placed on the interfaces between germanium and metal that can dynamically program the function of the transistor ".

This control electrode additive essentially allows researchers to alter the behavior of transistors. Typical single-electrode transistors carry current via free-moving electrons (which carry a negative charge) or by removing an electron from individual atoms, making them positively charged. The addition of the germanium bridge allows the new design to be able to seamlessly transition between these two transport states.

Dr Sistani explained:

The fact that we use germanium is a decisive advantage. This is because germanium has a very special electronic structure: when voltage is applied, the current flow initially increases, as would be expected. After a certain threshold, however, the current flow decreases again - this is called a negative differential resistance. With the help of the control electrode, we can modulate at what voltage this threshold is found. This results in new degrees of freedom that we can use to give the transistor exactly the properties we need.

if (jQuery ("# ​​crm_srl-th_hardware_d_mh3_1"). Is (": visible")) { console.log ("Edinet ADV adding zone: tag crm_srl-th_hardware_d_mh3_1 slot id: th_hardware_d_mh3"); } Surprisingly, the technology promises to be rapidly scalable and deployable: none of the materials used are new to the semiconductor industry and new, specially designed tools would not be needed. But, of course, any initial adoption would be limited, and the researchers believe their adaptive transistor would be incorporated as an add-on to certain semiconductor designs to be exploited when needed.

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