In the effort to pile more power
atop silicon chips, engineers have developed the equivalent of mini-skyscrapers
in three-dimensional integrated circuits and encountered a new challenge: how
to manage the heat created within the tiny devices.
But a team of UT Arlington
researchers funded by the National Science Foundation is working first to
minimize the heat generated and then to developing nano-windows that will allow
the heat to dissipate before it damages the chip.
Ankur Jain, assistant professor
of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is working with colleague Dereje
Agonafer, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Roger Schmidt,
IBM fellow and chief engineer, on the project.
“There is only a very limited
amount of space available on an integrated circuit so we’ve had to build
vertically, placing wafers on top of wafers,” Jain said. “These 3D integrated
circuits have led to significant performance improvements. However, when we
stack these circuits on top of each other, heat starts to become a problem.”
He added: “All the heat being
generated in this multi-layer stack needs to be removed, otherwise it causes
deterioration in performance.”
Agonafer said the team will
investigate and measure fundamental thermal transport and thermomechanical
properties of materials and interfaces in 3D integrated circuit technology.
The team also will look at
Through-Silicon Vias, or TSVs – high-performance wires that allow integrated
circuits to talk to each other and pass instructions from one level to the
Jain and Agonafer believe the
cooling effects will boost the efficiency and speed of the 3D integrated
circuits as well.
Schmidt said UT Arlington is one
of the many academic partners IBM works with to find solutions for tomorrow’s
“Cooling chips has come a long
way in recent years, but the financial savings can be enormous,” Schmidt said.
“Reducing heat just a little can translate to millions of dollars in savings
down the road. Plus, typically solving the heat problem also yields faster,
more reliable and more powerful computing.”
Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the
UT Arlington College of Engineering, said the project demonstrates the
important role that a research institution can play in partnering with industry
leaders, such as IBM.
“Their work will help not only
chip manufacturers but any business whose products depend on 3D, integrated
circuit technology,” Bardet said. “We are pleased to be partnering with a
worldwide innovator in research that will improve technology we have all come
to depend upon.”
University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of
more than 33,200 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of
North Texas and the second largest member of The University of Texas System. Visit
www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.