HK+MG transistors from Intel

It seems that Intel will be implementing the new Penryn 45 nm CPUs using a HighK material + Metal Gate manufacturing process. While this has been in the air for some time (I’ve reported on this back in 2005 and I believe I’ve heard it even before), it seems that they have resolved issues that would make these materials suitable for mass production and be reliable enough as market devices. The material that will replace the silicon dioxide is called hafnium and the article speculates it could increase the K factor from 3.9 to something between 15 and 40. This is important as processors get fabricated at smaller and smaller dimensions the distance between the silicon substrate and the gate diminishes as well and up to now this was the primary leakage that was holding out processor evolution. With Penryn coming up in the second half of this year, it’ll give Intel a significant boost, allowing for more energy savings, an expanded instruction set with SSE4 and perhaps a clock increase as well. What are AMD and IBM cooking in their foundries and labs is also interesting but it seems Intel has beaten them to the clock but they are a close behind. This is great for the consumer as Intel knows it has to capitalize on this research as soon as possible in order to get the money invested in it as soon as possible and before other manufacturers get to do the same. Even if this is not a revolution in what a transistor is or how it executes its logic, it gives a breath of fresh air and additional period of exploitation as the classical performance race drives the industry.
I think I’ll wait for this Penryn beast, in the mean time check out the new SSE4 instruction set.