Intel ( INTC) unveiled important details of its forthcoming microprocessors, including a breakthrough in new transistor materials, as it pushes forward with an aggressive manufacturing plan. The Santa Clara, Calif., company said Friday that it is on track to introduce processors for servers, desktops and notebook PCs in the second half of the year, with circuits that measure 45-nanometers. The new family of chips, dubbed Penryn, is part of the existing generation of processors based on the Core microarchitecture that Intel introduced last summer. But the smaller circuitry will provide improved performance and energy efficiency characteristics, compared with the currently available Core Duo chips featuring larger, 65-nanometer circuitry. With competition between Intel and Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD) fiercer than ever, the factory is playing a critical role in shaping the contest. By manufacturing chips with smaller circuits, a company can cram more transistors per chip, reducing its costs or increasing the performance of its products. For Intel and AMD, keeping their manufacturing operations on schedule is critical. Intel enjoys a lead over AMD, having converted the majority of its production to 65-nanometer chips in June and vowing to begin its first shipments of 45-nanometer chips in the second half of this year. AMD began volume production of 65-nanometer chips in December and plans to move to 45-nanometer transistor production next year. According to Intel, Penryn chips will feature 490 million transistors -- twice the density of today's Core Duo processors. The new processors will devote some of the extra transistors to an expanded on-chip cache, as well as added computing instruction sets geared for multimedia applications.