Tag Archives | Chips

MIT Announces Chip Material Breakthrough

Last week, researchers at MIT announced that they used a new material called graphene to design microchips that provide significantly higher data transfers rates than traditional silicon chips. Graphene chip processing techniques currently being used in the laboratory will scale to mass production of compact,  powerful communication devices within a little as one to two years, MIT says.

The MIT researchers used graphene to produce a chip that doubled the frequency of an electromagnetic signal produced by today’s technology. The chip also produced less “noise”–interference that requires filtering by supplementary chips–than its silicon counterparts, enabling more miniaturization and less power consumption in devices such as cell phones.

“In electronics, we’re always trying to increase the frequency,” in order to make “faster and faster computers” and cellphones that can send data at higher rates, said Tomás Palacios, assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a core member of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories in a prepared statement. “It’s very difficult to generate high frequencies above 4 or 5 gigahertz,” but graphene technology could lead to practical systems in the 500 to 1,000 gigahertz range, he added.

While other laboratories have been experimenting with graphene, MIT says that its work followed standard chip processing methods, and would reduce the time needed to develop a commercial product. The project has attracted the interest of “many other offices in the federal government and major chip-making companies,” Palacios said.

MIT may be jockeying for funding, but it sounds as if it has achieved a genuine breakthrough in taking a relatively new material from being the plaything of researchers to something that may show up in real products reasonably soon. With silicon chips approaching their physical limits, the announcement is promising news.

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Nvidia Might Get Into the x86 Business

Nvidia LogoIt’s more than a rumor but less than a fact: Nvidia is apparently considering branching out from its core business of making graphics processors to make system-on-a-chip products that combine a CPU and a GPU on a single chip at some point in the next few years, putting it in the most direct competition imaginable with Intel. The theory–and it certainly sounds plausible–is that SoC designs that pack both a powerful CPU and a powerful GPU will come to dominate the market, leaving a graphics specialist such as Nvidia in a tight spot.

Plenty of companies have tried to compete with Intel over the years; nearly all of them have failed, leaving only AMD and VIA (the latter of which specializes in basic chips for basic devices) still in the game. As a consumer, I love competition, so I hope Nvidia goes for it. Anything that gives Intel reason to be paranoid should help Moore’s Law work its magic of more potent technology at better prices. And if any tech outfit has the combination of ambition, tech chops, and craziness to dive in at this point, it’s probably Nvidia.

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