UMC techies boost SOI chip speed by 30%

Use unwanted quantum tunnelling effects

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boffins at UMC, the world's second largest chip foundry, have figured out how to use quantum tunnelling to improve the performance of silicon-on-insulator (SOI) transistors.

UMC dubs the new technique Direct Tunneling Floating-Body Potential (DTFBP) and claimed today it gives PMOS transistors a 30 per cent higher drive current over standard SOI elements.

Crucially, the company said, using DTFBP doesn't make the fabrication process any more complex - unlike strained silicon, for example, which requires big tweaks to be made to chip production lines.

Intel is using strained silicon for its 90nm process, and IBM is using the technique to improve its own 90nm SOI chips. So too is AMD.

Tunnelling is the quantum mechanical phenomenon by which an electron can pass through a energy barrier it ought not to be able to traverse due to insufficient energy of its own.

As transistors get smaller and smaller, such effects play an increasingly important role in chip design. Tunnelling usually manifests itself as electrons passing through thin layers of insulating material. This 'leakage' is bad. SOI transistors are susceptible to the problem because they are mounted - with good reason: it lowers transistor capacitance, thus improving its operation as a voltage-controlled switch - on an insulator.

A downside of SOI is the so-called 'floating-body effect', which results in erratic transistor behaviour - it causes early source-to-drain breakdown, in the jargon - when the supply voltage is reduced. UMC's system tweaks the transistor structure to manipulate the effect of tunnelling to prevent the floating-body effect.

The UMC team behind the discovery published details of their findings in April via the IEEE. You can find the paper here. ®

Related stories

Silicon on insulator key to AMD 90nm success - analyst
IBM boffins boost combo computing, wireless chips
IBM boffins boost chip performance by 65%
AMD to offer strained silicon chips
IBM fabs 90nm G5 using strained silicon
AMD dismisses Intel high-k transistor tech
Intel claims high-k material will slash chip power hunger
AMD and Intel scientists outline future chip tech
AMD super SOI to boost chip speeds by 30%
IBM, AMD unveil terahertz transistor breakthroughs


7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?