As the world of IT pursues its relentless race to test the physical limits of Moore’s Law, there’s the environment to consider as well. As the number of transistors increases, so does computing power, and so does the electricity used to keep those microchips cool. 3D microchips now being developed by Swiss scientists could help to cut the carbon footprint of future computing while increasing processing capacity by 10%, utilizing microprocessors cooled from the inside through channels as thin as a human hair.
This method is currently being developed by researchers from the EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland) and its sister organisation ETH Zurich. The aim of the project, under the leadership of John R. Thome in Lausanne, is to develop processors 10 times more powerful as today’s–with as many transistors per cubic centimetre as there are neurons in the same volume of a human brain–by pioneering a unique vertical or “3D” architecture that, according to a release, should ensure that data transfer is 10 times faster, while reducing energy consumption and heat.
Thome said, in a statement, “In the United States, the industry’s data centres already consume as much as 2% of available electricity. As consumption doubles over a five-year period, the supercomputers of 2100 would theoretically use up the whole of the USA’s electrical supply!.” The aim of 3D microprocessing apparently is to avoid that scenario, while boosting the performance of future computers.