01 December 2011

IBM chip making breakthrough enables 15x faster memory

IBM has unveiled what it describes as a breakthrough in chip making, by stacking chips on top of one another to achieve 15x faster memory in a 90% smaller package.

This is the first commercial manufacturing process to build 3d semiconductors – a new class of silicon that can lead to computing devices 1000 times more powerful than today's. As the first customer, Micron will use the IBM process to deliver its 3d Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) for smart phones and pcs.

Micron is to begin production of the HMC, built using the first commercial cmos manufacturing technology to employ through silicon vias (TSVs). The new memory device will be manufactured at IBM's advanced semiconductor fab in New York, using the company's 32nm high k metal gate process technology.

According to IBM, HMC technology uses advanced TSVs, vertical conduits that electrically connect a stack of individual chips, to combine high performance logic with Micron's dram. It is designed to deliver bandwidth and efficiencies ' a leap beyond' current device capabilities, with prototypes said to have clocked in with bandwidth of 128GB/s. Current devices deliver 12.8 GB/s. HMC also requires 70% less energy to transfer data, while offering 10% of the footprint of conventional memory.

Subu Iyer, IBM Fellow, believes HMC will enable a new generation of performance in applications ranging from large scale networking and high performance computing, to industrial automation and, eventually, consumer products.
"This is a milestone in the industry move to 3d semiconductor manufacturing," said Iyer. "The manufacturing process we are rolling out will have applications beyond memory, enabling other industry segments as well. In the next few years, 3d chip technology will make its way into consumer products, and we can expect to see drastic improvements in battery life and functionality of devices."

Robert Feurle, vice president of dram marketing for Micron, added: "HMC is a game changer, finally giving architects a flexible memory solution that scales bandwidth while addressing power efficiency. Through collaboration with IBM, Micron will provide the industry's most capable memory offering."

IBM will present details of its TSV manufacturing breakthrough at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting on 5 December in Washington, DC.

Chris Shaw

Supporting Information


IBM (UK) Ltd
Micron Technology Ltd

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