Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Intel, IBM Separately Claim Semiconductor Innovation

SAN JOSE, California -- In dueling announcements, Intel and IBM separately said they had solved a puzzle in the semiconductor industry about how to reduce energy loss in microchip transistors as the technology shrinks to the atomic scale.

Each company said it had devised a way to replace problematic but vital materials in the transistors of computer chips that have begun leaking too much electric current as the circuitry on those chips gets smaller.

Technology experts said it was the most dramatic overhaul of transistor technology for computer chips since the 1960s and that it was crucial in allowing semiconductor companies to continue making ever-smaller devices that are also energy efficient.

It also ratchets up the competition between Intel and rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices, which helped IBM develop the technology along with electronics makers Sony and Toshiba.

Semiconductor experts said Intel and IBM scientists had concocted a clever way to maintain the industry's frenetic development pace. Companies are feverishly trying to discover new ways to adhere to Moore's Law, the 1965 prediction by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a chip should double about every two years.

So far, chip development has generally advanced according to that schedule, leading to the creation of faster and more powerful processors that also give off less heat and are cheaper to run.

But scientists in recent years have reported serious problems in stopping electric current from leaking out of the tiniest chip parts.

Intel and IBM said they had discovered a way to replace silicon dioxide, which has been used as an insulator for more than 40 years, with various other metals.