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Intel Corp. to Fund 3D Computer Processing Unit Development

Westmere chip set (Intel Corp.)

(Intel Corp.)

Computer engineers at North Carolina State University in Raleigh are developing a three-dimensional central processing unit (CPU) that aims to increase energy efficiency by 15 percent. The project, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Intel Corporation, is led by Paul Franzon, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State.

A 3D integrated circuit connects vertically stacked chips through electronic connections called through-silicon vias that pass through the silicon wafers. Three-dimensional circuits represent an advance over conventional computer chips, which operate in two dimensions.

But the development of 3D CPUs has run into some difficulties that Franzon’s team plans to address. One problem is reconciling chips designed and manufactured in different places to different specifications so that they work together in three dimensions. The team will also address the issue of heat dissipation, since the 3D nature of the design creates more computing power but also more heat, leading to higher temperatures inside a machine.

The researchers plan to have a prototype developed in 2014 that improves energy efficiency by at least 15 percent. The project will also address issues for manufacturers raised by the greater complexity of a 3D CPU. One of those issues involves methods manufacturers can use to test individual CPU components to ensure they are functional.

Read more: Computer Engineers Boost Multi-Core Chip Performance

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