IBM today announced it has developed a new method of manufacturing low power, high performance microprocessors using an industry-first combination of silicon-on-insulator (SOI), strained silicon and copper wiring technologies.

IBM is putting the technique immediately to work in volume 90 nanometer production at its 300mm manufacturing facility. The company’s award-winning 64-bit PowerPC 970FX microprocessor will be the first chip built using this trio of IBM technology breakthroughs.

Early PowerPC 970FX chips produced with the new technology deliver significant power savings, while performing at an equal or higher clock speed than comparable processors. The company expects to realize even greater gains in processor efficiency as it ramps production of the new process technology.

“Our decades-long commitment to pursuing and rapidly implementing technology breakthroughs like SOI and strained silicon is paving the way for a new generation of power savvy chips,” said Bernard S. Meyerson, IBM Fellow and chief technologist, IBM Systems and Technology Group. “With this fusion of IBM-pioneered technologies, customers no longer have to sacrifice performance to achieve the power savings they increasingly demand.”

Today, chip designers and manufacturers are confronted by conflicting pursuits of increased processing speed and reduced power consumption. Typically, in order to achieve one of these goals, chip-makers need to sacrifice or significantly impair the other—trading power consumption for performance (and vice versa). IBM conquered this challenge by integrating strained silicon and SOI into the same manufacturing process. This breakthrough speeds the flow of electrons through transistors to increase performance and provide an insulating layer in the silicon that isolates transistors to decrease power consumption.

PowerPC Power Tuning
IBM’s versatile new PowerPC 970FX microprocessor is designed for use in a wide array of applications, from desktops to servers to storage and communications products, which require 64-bit performance and/or low power consumption from a microprocessor. Apple has announced that it will use the PowerPC 970FX in its powerful new Xserve G5 1U rack-mount server.

The 970FX also takes advantage of another new IBM-refined power saving technique-enabled through sophisticated system-wide tuning and controlling of processor frequency and voltage-which will be detailed in a presentation at the International Solid-State Circuit Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco on February 16.

The PowerPC 970FX recently garnered the Microprocessor Report Analysts’ Choice Award for Best Desktop Processor, ahead of the Intel Pentium 4 and AMD Athlon 64 FX-51. The award was announced February 5 in San Jose.

Derived from IBM’s award-winning POWER4 dual-core microprocessor, the PowerPC 970FX provides users with unrivaled 64-bit computing power, allowing new applications to virtually address an astounding 18 exabytes (18 billion billion bytes) of memory while also running 32-bit applications natively to enable continued use of legacy software as they migrate to 64-bit applications. The design of the 970FX also supports symmetric multi-processing (SMP), allowing systems to be created that link multiple processors to work in tandem for additional processing power.

The PowerPC 970FX uses the same underlying IBM POWER architecture behind families of IBM microprocessors that power products ranging from consumer electronics to supercomputers.