Intel unveils its nano inside
with new small tech initiatives

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Sept. 12, 2002 — Semiconductor giant Intel Corp. today revealed plans to apply nanotechnology and MEMS devices across a range of projects, including sensor networks and optical “building blocks” that will advance the integration of computing and communications.

The announcement was made at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif.

Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s chief technology officer, and Sunlin Chou, senior vice president, discussed plans to integrate wireless “silicon radios” into future Intel chips for a more universal marriage of digital technology and seamless networking.

“We believe that integrated silicon will deliver innovative, ubiquitous and low-cost technologies to enable a world in which all computers will communicate and all communications devices will compute,” the company said.

At the conference, Gelsinger demonstrated a tunable laser that typified the integration of digital and optical components on a single chip it hopes will dramatically lower the cost of optical networks. The company said its goal was to develop low-cost silicon building blocks.

Intel also said that it is running a field test of “sensor net” technology on an island off Maine. Scientists from Intel Research laboratories and the College of the Atlantic in Maine have deployed a wireless network of MEMS sensors to record temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and infrared information to study an island ecosystem without disturbing the wildlife.

Environmental data is relayed in real time to the Internet via a satellite. Intel is also developing software tools for programming such sensor networks, which could have a wide range of applications for pervasive computing environments.

The company has already announced that Intel will harness nanotechnology to improve chip performance by moving to strained silicon, a nanoengineered form of the familiar material, adopting a 90-nanometer transistor architecture, and developing nanoengineered materials to better insulate transistor gates.

“We will continue to drive Moore’s Law by building more capabilities into our silicon through advanced research and investment in nanotechnology,” Chou said. “Our research goes well beyond next year’s 90 nanometer technology to evaluate longer term options that will continue to renew silicon technology and extend its scalability into the next decade.”

Chou noted that Intel is collaborating with universities on long-range nanotechnology projects including carbon nanotubes and silicon nanowires, but cautioned that computing devices built with these components may be at least 10 years away.


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