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Scientists Are Stacking Processor Cores on Top of Each Other

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 43 comments

Future microprocessors could extend the idea of 3D transistors to entire 3D cores.

Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) said they have developed a chip that can integrate three or more processors that are stacked on top of each other. Today's processing cores are aligned horizontally.

According to Yusuf Leblebici, director of the Microelectronics Systems Laboratory (LSM) at EPFL, the processors are vertically connected through "several hundreds" of "very thin copper microtubes", commonly referred to as Through-Silicon-Vias (TSVs). "It's the logical next step in electronics development, because it allows a large increase in terms of efficiency," Leblebici said. He noted that more than 900 TSVs are "functioning simultaneously".

"This superposition reduces the distance between circuits, and thus considerably improves the speed of data exchange," added Yuksel Temiz, a researcher at LSM.

While presented at the 2012 Interconnection Network Architectures Workshop in Paris, Leblebici did not reveal further features of the technology, but noted that it is not ready for mass-production. At this time, he wants to make his research available to "a number of academic research teams for further development, before being commercialized."

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Top Comments
  • 19 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 6, 2012 10:20 AM
    waiting for the time when these "still academic, not ready for production" technologies do get ready for mass-production....
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  • 19 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , June 6, 2012 10:20 AM
    waiting for the time when these "still academic, not ready for production" technologies do get ready for mass-production....
  • 7 Hide
    thezooloomaster , June 6, 2012 10:22 AM
    This sounds a lot like the 3D microchips that Kurzweil said would be the next step in sticking true to Moore's law.
  • Display all 43 comments.
  • -7 Hide
    elcentral , June 6, 2012 10:24 AM
    so twice the power twice the heat.
  • 8 Hide
    americanbrian , June 6, 2012 10:27 AM
    My only concern is that the heating effects will be increasingly difficult to manage. Clocking down the chips may be the only way to get them to not overheat, which will still be ok I guess but you lose single threaded speed for presumably higher core counts.

    We already see that this approach has been a mixed success on our desktops. It is kind of exciting though. It is like the Terminator 2 brain chip.
  • 7 Hide
    Dangi , June 6, 2012 10:42 AM
    this is the natural upgrade path to improve processors. increasing it's area isn't effective due to the long distances that comes with a bigger chip.

    Heat may no be a real problem, IBM some time ago design a new system to cool chips by creating nanotubes inside the cheap and running water throught it, creating a "true" watercooling system.

    More info abouts this nanotubes in the following link
  • 0 Hide
    Yargnit , June 6, 2012 10:48 AM
    I wonder what sort if difficulties this may cause with cooling the cores not directly adjacent to the heat sync?
  • 3 Hide
    joytech22 , June 6, 2012 11:15 AM
    Well cooling would be a HUGE problem wouldn't it? Unless they use the outer edge of the cores as the thermal dissipation thing, and dissipate heat through a huge plate covering all four edges, which further extends to a larger heatsink of some sort?

    Or did I just solve the problem for them..?
    I don't know.. eh
  • 1 Hide
    Shaun o , June 6, 2012 12:11 PM
    How about making a sealed chamber around the stacked chips with a non conductive fluid/ mineral oil passing through all of the stacked chips with as you said, small heat sinks on the outer four edges. and pump it around.
  • 1 Hide
    tomsreader , June 6, 2012 12:12 PM
    what about the cooling? if it's stacked then the lower core will get higher temperatures compared to the one closer to the IHS
  • 0 Hide
    C12Friedman , June 6, 2012 12:28 PM
    I can't wait for my 48 core processor, oh, it's not out yet? What am I to do in the meantime?
  • 7 Hide
    Dragoon21b , June 6, 2012 12:59 PM
    If we start talking about 3D processors we have to consider the best model already available...The Brain. all it is is a collection of transistors and pathways that run a very low voltage and are suspended in a non-conductive goo...Just one more small step toward Star Trek.
  • 2 Hide
    frombehind , June 6, 2012 1:06 PM
    so if ivy bridge has major heat woes with side-by-side cores... how is stacking them like hotcakes (pun inteded xD ) going to make them generate LESS heat?
  • 0 Hide
    spp85 , June 6, 2012 1:06 PM
    Stacking Processor Cores is a good idea, but how they cool the lowest cores ? Heat dissipation would be the biggest problem...
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , June 6, 2012 1:15 PM
    The 3D design need more of a visual architectural design. Something like a processor sized vent with ribs. Copper heat pipes could be added to stiffen the design to move heat to the primary heat sink customers place on top. Air could also be blown though this design for cooling. Imagine if the processor were like old style heat sinks with one flat layer and several vertical. This would require each package to connect much like the old Q6600 did back in 2006.

    | | | |
    | | | |

    A six layer stacked CPU could not possible vent enough heat to compete in the consumer space.
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , June 6, 2012 1:18 PM
    The above vertical lines didn't space correctly. They should be equal spaced and make a square box on the outer edges.
  • 1 Hide
    serendipiti , June 6, 2012 1:30 PM
    elcentralso twice the power twice the heat.

    But with the same size... so twice the heat "density". The only real benefit is shorter conexion paths=higher speeds.
    It is an useful development, but probably the tecnology will be adopted in an hybrid approach: only parts of the core will be layered while some structures will remain the same...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 6, 2012 1:39 PM
    Good bring in the 100GHZ cpu's. This with an internal cpu peltier cooling and a special heatsink.
  • 0 Hide
    jonyah , June 6, 2012 1:42 PM
    Glad I'm not the only one here to see the main issue of cooling with these. Surface area is king when it comes to heat dissipation. These chips may be able to be made, but can they actually run?
  • 3 Hide
    shin0bi272 , June 6, 2012 1:58 PM
    damn it! I thought this up in 2002 but didnt have the money to patent it.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 6, 2012 2:04 PM :D  Multicore, multi-dimensional 3D processors, tied into neural net... ...and running one ultimate piece of software - the SKYNET! This is our future... only delayed a bit... due to unpredicted difficulties in technology developement...
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