A breakthrough in processor materials could allow a new generation of slim computing devices that last longer than existing systems.
A research team at Stanford University and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) have developed a tape consisting of tiny copper nanotubes which can be used to replace electrical pin connections and solder.
The new material is as conductive as copper, and dissipates heat more effectively. It is also less vulnerable to thermal expansion, which occurs when a computer heats up and cools down during operation and can lead to solder cracking that disables the computer.
"Researchers love to create useful materials and structures that we've never seen before, and this new thermal nanotape revolutionises the chip's heat sink contact," said Jon Candelaria, director of interconnect and packaging sciences at SRC.
"Instead of being forced to rely on the properties of just a single material, this combination gives the integrated circuits industry an opportunity to circumvent severe performance limitations and continue to improve packaging without adding cost."
The new material will allow manufacturers to build slimmer, more thermally efficient processors which will translate into new system designs. Thermal limits in particular are close to being reached for today's processors as the number of transistors per chip is scaled up.
"Scaling can drive down cost and deliver more power," said Gary Patton, vice president of IBM's R&D Center.
"But we are reaching the end of traditional scaling by reducing size. We need to focus on materials and process innovation as keys to scaling."
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