The Arrow Lake processors for PCs that Intel will release in 2024 will improve performance, including through a new technology for applying voltage to the semiconductor chip from its underside. The company has tested the technology and confirmed that it can increase frequencies, reduce voltage drops and increase transistor density.
Intel said its upcoming technology, called PowerVia, is currently enabling a 6 percent increase in frequency on test chips. There is also a 30% reduction in voltage drop and lower operating temperatures. In addition, by moving the power to the other side of the chip, designers can design denser microcircuits.
With Arrow Lake, the 2024 successor to the Meteor Lake processor, Intel will separate the power lines from the signal lines and move them to the opposite side of the chip. Intel calls this solution PowerVia. “PowerVia is a revolutionary change in on-chip interconnect that improves power, performance, area and cost – all important parameters of transistor design.said Ben Sell, an Intel vice president who worked on the technology.
Based on Intel’s 20A process, Arrow Lake uses PowerVia technology side-by-side with RibbonFET transistors, which should offer additional advantages for circular gates.
To date, neither TSMC nor Samsung have analogues of PowerVia technology. Therefore, Intel will gain a certain edge over the competition. If PowerVia and RibbonFET arrive as planned in 2024 with Intel’s 20A manufacturing process, it will give Intel a competitive boost as the technology helps densify semiconductor chips and improve their power efficiency. For example, TSMC’s technology of drawing power from the back of the chip is not expected until 2026 at the earliest.
Intel anticipates that integrating PowerVia into its mainstream consumer processor will not result in higher scrap rates. To be on the safe side, Intel tested the PowerVia on test E-Core chips made with the current Intel 4 manufacturing process used for some parts of Meteor Lake. And apparently the company was so pleased with the result that it made PowerVia a standard part of the Intel 20A process technology.
PowerVia adds new manufacturing steps to the hundreds of steps required to make a chip. After the transistors are grown on the front of the silicon wafer, it needs to be flipped, ground, polished and the circuits drawn. At first glance, this increases both production costs and production time. However, removing power lines from the front of the board frees up space for communication lines, simplifying the design and generally lowering the cost of processors.
The launch of PowerVia could also support Intel’s contract business and allow customers using the technology to build energy-efficient solutions for mobile devices, such as processors for smartphones.