HP designs new chip layout

Written by Brett Thomas

January 17, 2007 // 4:55 p.m.

Tags: #amd #hewlett-packard #hp #intel

The chip industry has long been tied to Moore's Law. Ever since we really started to kick off binary-style silicon-based computing en masse, technology has roughly doubled every two years in speed and transistor count. However, it seems that for the first time we might have something that can truly break pattern enough to be called genuinely outside of Moore's Law - and it isn't even designed by a chip maker.

Some really smart guys over at HP have figured out a way to replace the current aluminum interconnects in chips with a thin nanowire grid that sits on top of them. Because of this, the transistors can be redistributed in a much more space-friendly format - allowing up to eight times the transistor count in the same die size.

Better yet, the technology should be completely feasible by 2010 and able to be integrated into current fabrication technologies. This means that the big chip designers like AMD and Intel won't need to pay for much more than the royalties for the technology. By Moore's Law, this jump shouldn't have happened until 2013.

The paper containing results from the study will be published in this month's Nanotechnology journal, and the industry is already sitting up to take notice. With the new method of design, it would be easily possible to create "zones" on a chip that can be turned on or off on the fly, thus reducing power consumption. It would also be possible to have redundancy built in, allowing multiple cores that would prevent a chip from being a waste if one transistor failed. The possibilities for use are endless, and the reduction in wiring and new space configuration means a savings in energy costs to boot even with the new power.

Most interesting of all is the fact that HP no longer is in the business of either chip production or design - the company gave it up years ago to head towards a more consumer-product design angle. However, if the technology turns out to be half the step forward it is purported to be, HP could end up as one of the most profitable companies in the chip design industry due to the potential royalties.

Have you got a thought on the leap forward? Let us know about it in our forums.

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