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Brittle chips? HP has nanovitamins



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Brittle chips? HP has nanovitamins


Rome – Yesterday an Intel engineer, Padma Apparao, explained that the smaller the processor circuits become, the greater the risk that these will be born or become defective. According to Apparao, the reliability of the chips could reach a critical point already below 50 nanometers: with traditional error correction technologies, in fact, future generations of processors could become the primary source of system crashes or calculation errors.

The Intel engineer pointed out that at extreme levels of miniaturization, processors become increasingly sensitive to the environment, and in particular to cosmic rays, alpha particles, electromagnetic fields, oxidation and the smallest manufacturing defects. As can be expected, all the major chip makers are trying to improve current process technologies and develop new solutions: a game that is played on the field of nanotechnology, a new promised land of computing and science in general.

More or less in the same hours in which Apparao illustrated to reporters what will be the greatest technological challenge of the next few years, HP announced that it has developed a technique that will allow to exploit future chips even in the presence of one or more defects. In practice it is a system that is able to make nanocircuits work even when they are partially defective.

HP’s technique, developed as part of the research project on crossbar latch molecular devices, does not solve all the side effects of chip miniaturization, but nevertheless promises to make processors more reliable and significantly lower their manufacturing costs.

HP explained that the error correction method developed by its researchers is based on the same principles underlying data integrity checks that are used in the transmission of information. The giant claims that this system will be essential to produce chips with molecular-scale circuits in large volumes, especially below 30 nm: at this level of miniaturization, in fact, most of the chips will contain small manufacturing defects which, in the absence of an adequate technique for correcting errors, would force producers to discard them.

HP expects crossbar latches – its alternative to transistors – to be adopted by the industry in the mid-next decade.