IBM has developed a method for building microchips that it claims will boost the speed and performance of processors by up to 30 per cent.
The technique will produce future generations of IBM's Power4 processors, which are used in the company's RS/6000 and AS/400 servers.
The method uses a material known as a low-k dielectric, which protects the millions of individual copper circuits on a chip. The development involves an insulating material used to isolate the copper wires that make up the circuitry of an integrated circuit.
"This represents a fundamental shift in the way chips are built," said John Kelly, general manager of the IBM microelectronics division."
Dan Hutcheson, an analyst at semiconductor researcher VLSI Research, welcomed the development. "This is a pretty big deal. Everyone else who has tried to make this work has fallen on their face," he said.
IBM also unveiled a custom chip called Cu-11. This application-specific integrated circuit template will be manufactured with the company's 0.13 micron process technology. Big Blue plans to make Cu-11 design kits, including software design tools and services, available in July.
With the new process, chips will function with wires as small as 0.13 micron, compared with 0.25 micron for the majority of chips produced.
IBM said the chips will be in devices such as mobile phones within the next few years, and it predicts that the technology will be used in large-volume chip production by the second half of next year.
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