Is there any way to make semiconductors any more efficient than they already are? IBM and Samsung seem to think so, and are out to prove it. A new technology called Vertical Transport Field Effect Transistors (VTFET) changes how chips are made, with interesting results.
Conventional FinFET chips are made into… well, fins, with sections branching off around a central channel. This new development stacks transistors vertically, letting transistor density increase without increasing a chip’s footprint.
IBM squints at the very tiny future
If the only result of this new manufacturing method was more transistors, it wouldn’t be that remarkable. But that’s not the only result. IBM and Samsung believe that VTFET chips offer, “…a path to scaling beyond nanosheet, and has the potential to reduce energy usage by 85 percent compared to a scaled fin field-effect transistor (finFET).”
Translation? Smartphone batteries that last a week on a charge, for starters, thanks to reduced power draw. Improved smart devices are also possible, and the two companies also tout reduced energy needs for crypto mining as a result of the architecture. Just in case you needed another reason to be happy that processors might undergo an evolution soon.
But don’t expect to see VTFET processors anywhere just yet. IBM is still at the ‘test chip’ stage of developing this new architecture. It’s unlikely to jump straight into smartphones or satellites in the next twelve months. But Samsung and IBM won’t be dragging their feet either. Intel’s working on something called RibbonFET, and it’s also working on vertically stacking transistors. The first to market will have an advantage there. In the meantime, if they could just do something about the ongoing chip shortage.