Megahertz and gigahertz are yesterday's specs. Take, for example, that fact that Intel hit the 1GHz mark in 2000, 2GHz in 2001, and 3GHz in 2002, and we've yet to see a (non-overclocked) CPU running at 4GHz. As transistors are more tightly packed onto smaller chips, the chips become less efficient, as they require more power and generate more heat--so much so that some have predicted the end of Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors on a chip will double every two years.
Instead of merely increasing the clock speed from one generation to the next, chip manufacturers have looked to other areas to improve performance, from low-voltage chips for longer battery life on laptops to dual-core chips for improved performance at lower clock speeds. Yahoo News reports today that Intel researchers have settled on a way to insulate a chip's transistors, which will allow the continuation of Moore's Law. Intel has experimented with various insulation tactics over the years and announced today that its "tri-gate transistor" is the method it will use on future chips. A tri-gate transistor differs from a traditional flat transistor in that it wraps around three sides of a transistor rather than just one side. The result? Less electricity leaked and less power required to run. Still early in development, tri-gate transistors won't be featured on Intel's upcoming 65-nanometer Core 2 Duo chips or even next year's anticipated 45nm chips. Intel says that this could be a feature you'll see on 32nm chips as early as 2009, or just in time to replace the PC you're planning on buying today.