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Low power consumption CPUs are the holy grail for mobile devices and although progress has been made over the past few years, Intel now suggests it is ready for a quantum leap.

The company says its latest 65 nanometer (nm) manufacturing process will enable production of very low-power chips for mobile platforms and small-form factor devices.

Key to the low power consumption of the process is a reduction in power leakage, which can happen even when the device is off.

The new process not only offers lower-power transistors on the CPU, but a shorter gate length of 35nm compared to the 50nm gate length used in the current 90nmPentium 4 processors.

Though the second-generation 65nm process won’t reach production until 2007 the significant increases are worth noting now as a future trend. Intel says the process uses a version of Intel’s strained silicon, eight high-speed copper interconnect layers and a low-k dielectric material. The transistor modifications result in significant reductions in the three major sources of transistor leakage: sub-threshold leakage, junction leakage and gate oxide leakage. The benefits of reduced transistor leakage are lower power and increased battery life, says the company (whatever that means, Ed).

It all means double the number of transistors Intel can put on a single 90nm chip today at only a two percent increase in manufacturing cost.

“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 ultra-low power manufacturing process. We will design future mobility platforms to take full advantage of both leading-edge, 65nm manufacturing processes.”

“With the number of transistors on some chips exceeding one billion, it is clear that improvements made for individual transistors can multiply into huge benefits for the entire device,” said Mark Bohr, senior fellow and director of Intel Process Architecture and Integration. “Test chips made on Intel’s ultra-low power 65nm process technology have shown transistor leakage reduction roughly 1000 times from our standard process. This translates into significant power savings for people who will use devices based on this technology.”

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