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Intel Granted Patent for Germanium Nanowire Transistors

By - Source: USPTO | B 6 comments

Intel was granted a patent that covers the use of germanium as a material choice for compound semiconductors that promise faster processors and reduced power consumption.

Submitted as a patent application in April of 2010, the company first discussed a related invention at the 2010 International Electron Devices Meeting. Intel disclosed that it had developed P-channel transistors made from germanium, which the company said could be combined with complementary III-V N-channel transistors to form a suitable CMOS architecture. The focus on germanium is largely due to the fact that it is more mobile than silicon.

The patent itself reveals the use of a "germanium nanowire channel and the SiGe anchoring regions [that] are formed simultaneously through preferential Si oxidation of epitaxial Silicon Germanium epi layer." Intel leverages a silicon fin as a "template" to align germanium nanowires on a chip while silicon-germanium anchors are used to mount to a silicon substrate. Germanium is likely to become a much more critical material in chip manufacturing in the future, as such nanowires "provide better control of short channel effects such as sub threshold slop and drain induced barrier lowering," the patent states.

The extensive use of germanium has been discussed by the semiconductor industry for more than a decade, while first sophisticated germanium processors were predicted 15 years ago to arrive in the 2007 - 2008 time frame (similarly, the first graphene processors are now forecast to become available around 2020 - 2025). The history even goes back to 1959, when Jack Kilby built a microchip with germanium, but it was Intel-co-founder Robert Noyce who chose silicon and overcame. Back then, germanium was found to be limited by greater current leakage. Over the past ten years, the interest in germanium as a transistor material has increased significantly and has resulted in developments such as IBM's 500 GHz GPU.

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  • -1 Hide
    tranzz , 13 February 2012 20:43
    Quote:
    Intel was granted a patent that covers the use of germanium as a material choice for compound semiconductors that promise faster processors and reduced power consumption.



    Let me get this right. Intel patented making a choice???
  • 0 Hide
    hooray4boobies , 14 February 2012 05:34
    No, intel was granted the patent for the use of germanium as a material in semiconductors. Read it correctly. The choice is using germanium instead of whatever else they use. The grammar is correct.
  • 0 Hide
    technogiant , 14 February 2012 14:04
    How can you patent a chemical element? Intel didn't invent Germanium.
  • Display all 6 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    raringcoder , 14 February 2012 14:16
    technogiantHow can you patent a chemical element? Intel didn't invent Germanium.

    Intel have patented fabricating it into a transistor, not the element.
  • 0 Hide
    technogiant , 14 February 2012 15:11
    If I was going to fabricate a chip I have the right to use whatever natural substance I choose, Intel may patent their fabrication methods but not the use of any particular substance unless they have designed that substance themselves...which they have obviously not.....even though they are talking of the use of germanium manipulated into nano wires I would argue they still have no right to patent that unless they have patented nano wires themselves....but I don't see that you can fairly patent making something smaller as a nano wire is just a small wire ........ but then again it's Intel....they don't have to behave fairly do they....smacks of more big company bully boy tactics.
  • 0 Hide
    kunjar , 14 February 2012 20:22
    Graphene will replace silicon eventually and perhaps diamond in place of copper interconnects on PCB for specific application, satellites, med, govt etc.