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Initiative aims to create superchip

Intel, AMD, and others will join the Energy Department in a consortium to create a superchip 100 times more powerful than current chips.

Major U.S. chip makers will share the stage with the U.S. Department of Energy tomorrow in announcing the formation of a consortium devoted to the creating a superchip 100 times more powerful than current chips.

CNET's NEWS.COM has learned that the undertaking will involve the largest investment ever made by private companies in a U.S. government laboratory. Intel chairman emeritus Gordon Moore will kick off the venture by donating a check for $250 million, according to sources.

One of the consortium's goals is to create a manufacturing technology using a sub-0.1 micron production process. Currently, a .25 micron process is cutting edge.

The consortium's participants will include chip manufacturers Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and Motorola. Prominent research institutions like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Sandia National Laboratories/California will also play a role.

"The announcement tomorrow will be very significant for the semiconducting industry," said an Intel spokesperson, who declined to comment further on the new organization. The event will take place in San Jose, California.

Tomorrow's speakers will include Energy Secretary Federico Pena and Intel chairman emeritus Gordon Moore.

In a paper last year, Intel senior vice president and Microprocessor Group general manager Albert Yu predicted that by the year 2011, chips could run at clock speeds of 10 GHz, contain 1 billion transistors, and process 100 billion instructions per second. By contrast, most of today's chips run at 200 MHz, contain 5 million transistors, and process 200 million instructions per second.