Cooler, Faster, Cheaper Silicon Chips

Cooler, Faster, Cheaper Silicon Chips
A group of researchers at Clemson University recently developed a new process and equipment that is expected to significantly reduce the amount of heat generated by silicon chips used for speeding processors. As microprocessors tend to generate more heat at higher working frequencies, the new process can improve the performance of future computers and reduce power loss.
 Professor Rajendra Singh (Credit: Clemson University)
Professor Rajendra Singh
(Credit: Clemson University)

Presently, dual-core and quad-core microprocessors are packaged as a single product in laptops so that heat is reduced without compromising the overall speed of the computing system. According to Rajendra Singh, D. Houser Banks Professor and Director of the Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics at Clemson University, writing software for these multi-core processors so that they are still profitable, remains a  significant challenge. 

Microprocessors based on the new process and equipment developed at Clemson University will be able to operate more quickly and will heat up less in the process. In the future, it will be possible to use a smaller number of microprocessors in a single chip, since the scientists have managed to increase the speed of each individual microprocessor. Additionally, they’ve reduced the power loss through leakage by six-fold, to a level never seen before. Heat has been (and still is) a major obstacle in the development of advanced microprocessors, and even a slight improvement in this area can lead to new generations of processors.  

 Prototype of the semiconductor processing equipment that may lead to commercial manufacturing tools for future generations of silicon chips (Credit: Clemson University)
Prototype of the semiconductor
processing equipment that may
lead to commercial manufacturing
tools for future generations of silicon
chips (Credit: Clemson University)

The potential of this new process and equipment is the low cost of manufacturing, along with better performance, reliability, and yield. Although the semiconductor industry is currently debating about various manufacturing issues,  it is widely agreed that cost is the barrier to change. Potentially, this invention will enable a reduction of many processing steps that will lead to lower overall costs, in addition to improved microprocessors. 

In 2007, TFOT covered the topic of green computing – the study and practice of efficient and eco-friendly computing resources, including technologies for reducing power in electronic devices. Earlier in 2007, TFOT covered ionic wind – a new ultra-thin, silent cooling technology for processors, developed by Kronos Advanced Technologies in collaboration with Intel and the University of Washington. 

More information about this new process can be found on the Clemson University website (and on the following page).

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Roni Barr

Roni is a Biotechnology and Food Engineering student at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology). She is a certified database administrator.

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