Has SuVolta Got A Good Idea?
The SuVolta approach to reducing leakage looks attractive because it adopts a new approach – looking at levelling up the variations in the threshold voltage of transistors.
An IC has to have enough voltage to make the slowest transistor switch at the same speed as the fastest transistor. Levelling up the threshold voltages reduces the need for the extra voltage required to do this.
SuVolta’s approach takes a different attitude to most people to the leakage problem below 30nm. Most people look for a new type of transistor. SuVolta says it is using bulk CMOS planar transistors.
SuVolta’s planar transistor can use conventional CMOS manufacturing equipment.
So far, so good. The SuVolta approach looks technologically plausible.
On the other hand you have to ask: Why didn’t Intel license it?
SuVolta is an IP licensing company. Intel has been desperate to find low-power techniques for its mobile ICs.
Intel must have looked at SuVolta’s approach but decided to go with Finfets, and Finfets are expected to involve a more tricky processing transition than sticking to planar technology.
Other negatives are: SuVolta has been going for six years without attracting a licensee until yesterday’s announcement of a Fujitsu licence; the company has had $48 million of venture money; it has succumbed to dressing up its board with celebrity techies, which is always a bit suspicious; and it’s changed its name – which can imply a loss of credibility in its earlier incarnation.
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