The Intel Corporation, the largest semiconductor maker, announced on Tuesday a new manufacturing process to make chips for cellphones and other mobile devices that use far less power than is currently possible, thus helping extend battery life.
The company said the new process, which will run parallel to Intel's current manufacturing process, would produce chips that can reduce power "leakage," or battery life drain, to as little as one-thousandth of current levels. Intel said it expected the chips to be used in cellphones, hand-held computers and eventually even some notebook computers where power conservation is more important than speed.
The new process, which is in the development phase and has been successfully tested, could be used commercially by early 2007, the company said.
The low-power approach will require a trade-off in performance, in some applications reducing a chip's speed by half. But Intel executives said there were plenty of markets in which processor speed was not the most important factor.
"People typically embrace mobile platforms that maximize battery life," said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of the Intel Mobile Platforms Group. "Such products will be greatly enhanced by our new ultralow power manufacturing process."
Intel's approach includes important modifications to the designs of the transistors that are part of chips. The low-power variant will affect only Intel's 65-nanometer manufacturing process, the company's most advanced to date. Power consumption, and the associated problem of electrical leakage, have become huge challenges for the semiconductor industry as it tries to enhance the performance of chips used in electronic devices. As Intel, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., and other chip companies continue to pack more advanced technology into ever smaller circuitry, the problem has become worse.
Intel's announcement Tuesday coincided with an announcement by Texas Instruments that it was also reducing power consumption in some of its mobile chips. Other chip companies are also working on solutions to the problem.
"Leakage is an undeniable component of battery consumption," said Rob Willoner, a technology analyst at Intel. "It's a waste." Reducing leakage to one-thousandth of typical levels is virtually eliminating it, he said. Source