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IBM plans 3D silicon ‘skyscrapers’ to make chips 1,000 times faster

IBM plans 3D silicon ‘skyscrapers’ to make chips 1,000 times faster

IBM plans 3D silicon ‘skyscrapers’ to make chips 1,000 times faster

IBM says the future of smartphones and tablet computers will be more powerful due to a breakthrough in silicon ‘tower’ technology that will make it possible to build commercial microprocessors 1,000 times more powerful than today’s PC chips.

It emerged today that 3M and IBM plan to jointly develop the first adhesives that can be used to package semiconductors into densely stacked silicon “towers.”

Such stacking would allow for dramatically higher levels of integration for IT and consumer electronics applications.

Processors could be tightly packed with memory and networking, for example, into a “brick” of silicon that would create a computer chip 1,000 times faster than today’s fastest microprocessor, enabling more powerful smartphones, tablets, computers and gaming devices.

IBM to create a new class of semiconductor

“Today's chips, including those containing ‘3D’ transistors, are in fact 2D chips that are still very flat structures,” said Bernard Meyerson, VP of Research, IBM.

“Our scientists are aiming to develop materials that will allow us to package tremendous amounts of computing power into a new form factor – a silicon ‘skyscraper.’ We believe we can advance the state-of-art in packaging, and create a new class of semiconductors that offer more speed and capabilities while they keep power usage low - key requirements for many manufacturers, especially for makers of tablets and smartphones.”  

IBM and 3M are developing a new type of electronic “glue” that can be used to build stacks of semiconductors – 3D chips. The glue connects up to 100 separate chips as it conducts heat away from the silicon package. The innovation will create microprocessors 1,000 times more powerful than today’s PC chips.

Many types of semiconductors, including those for servers and games, today require packaging and bonding techniques that can only be applied to individual chips. 3M and IBM plan to develop adhesives that can be applied to silicon wafers, coating hundreds or even thousands of chips at a single time. Current processes are akin to frosting a cake slice by slice. 

Under the agreement, IBM will draw on its expertise in creating unique semiconductor packaging processes, and 3M will provide its expertise in developing and manufacturing adhesive materials.

Photo: The glue, shown in blue above, connects up to 100 separate chips as it conducts heat away from the silicon package. The innovation will create microprocessors 1,000 times more powerful than today's PC chips

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