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Motorola slims chip transistors to quarter of current size

Faster, smaller, cooler CPUs to follow -- hurrah!

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Motorola scientists have devised a scheme to shrink the size of the semiconductor chip transistors by a factor of four. Now, The Register doesn't pretend to be expert in matters of semiconductor physics, but the gist of Motorola's discovery appears to be the use of new substances that make each transistor's gate -- the bit that controls the flow of current through the device -- appear electrically smaller than it actually is. As we understand it, the practical upshot of all this is that you need less material to make your gate work efficiently (so less current leaks out to interfere with the transistor's operation), so each transistor can be made thinner. Motorola's boffins reckon that the new gate insulator is ten times better at its job than the silicon dioxide (sand, to the rest of us) chip manufacturers currently use, so not only is it thinner, but it works better too. The new substance is known as a perovskite and is basically an oxide of strontium titanate, chemistry fans. At a processor level, Motorola's work means that chips can either be made much smaller or a lot more transistors can be packed in to provide extra processing facilities or more on-chip cache memory. The smaller and more efficient the chip, the less power it requires to operate, which is good news for mobile users. Motorola's announcement follows a similar discovery by the University of California at Berkeley's electronics department, revealed last week. UCB's discovery is said to reduce the size of transistors by a factor of ten, making for a fourhundredfold increase in the number of transistors chip designers can get onto a CPU using existing process technology. Motorola will presumably be keen to guard its own discovery closely, but since the UCB team plan to make all the details of their technology freely available, Motorola may be forced to follow suit. ® Related Stories Storage tech boffins to demo 140GB 'CD-ROM' UK boffins unveil $35 '2300GB on a PC Card' RAM breakthrough

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