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Breakthrough nanotape tech promises cooler chips

HardwareNews
by Staff Writer
, 24 Jan 2011News

A team of researchers comprised of members from the Semiconductor Research Corporation and Stanford University has developed a new thermal nanotape which it claims will lead to chips that run cooler and last longer.

The thermal nanotape, constructed of binder materials surrounding carbon nanotubes, promises to lead to the creation of semiconductors - including CPUs and GPUs - that don't suffer from the rigours of frequent temperature changes, known as thermal cycling.

The new material promises a lot: featuring a thermal conductivity comparable to copper but a flexibility and ability to expand and contract as a result of temperature changes without breaking that is more like a foam, its creators believe that it could be a major breakthrough in the race to create ever-smaller and ever-faster devices.

Professor Ken Goodson, SCR's lead researcher, described the breakthrough thusly: "A big roadblock to increasing the performance of modern chips is hot spots, or millimeter-sized regions of high power generation. This advance in nanostructured materials and methods will allow us to better cool these spots and serves as a key enabler for densification of computational circuitry."

Jon Candelarioa, director of packaging sciences at SRC, is equally confident that the new material holds promise: "Researchers love to create useful materials and structures that we’ve never seen before, and this new thermal nanotape revolutionises the chip’s heat sink contact.

"Instead of being forced to rely upon the properties of just a single material, this combination gives the integrated circuits industry an opportunity to circumvent severe performance limitations and continue to improve packaging without adding cost."

With semiconductor companies racing to solve the many issues with shrinking their process size to below 20nm, breakthroughs like this are going to be required - although the industry is warned that the technology, which is to be patented by SRC, won't be ready for commercial exploitation for at least another two years.

End user products featuring the new nanotape are expected to launch in 2014, if the company is successful in licensing it to semiconductor manufacturers.

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