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Scientists: Copper computer chip is the start of a new era

making a chip September 23, 1997
Web posted at: 6:02 p.m. EDT (1802 GMT)

From Correspondent David George

ATLANTA (CNN) -- IBM's breakthrough announcement that it has developed a copper chip promises not only faster, cheaper computers, but chips that can run cooler and pack more information into smaller, three-dimensional spaces.

Analysts say products ranging from cell phones to automobiles will benefit immediately from 3-D chip technology. And for scientists, the new chip is just the beginning.

"We'll get many researchers off into a new area, many more new inventions and processes may be developed because of this," said manufacturing technology expert Steven Danyluk.

vxtreme CNN's David George reports

Computer chips are the brains behind computers, and the industry is abuzz at the prospect of microprocessors that can work up to 40 percent faster -- and cost up to 30 percent less -- than current aluminum chips.

But some scientists, like Danyluk, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, say that to focus on computer speed misses the point of the new development.

"I don't think it's the speed. At least in my view, the speed is not the critical aspect of this announcement," Danyluk said.


More important is the new chip's ability to save space and run cooler than aluminum counterparts, he said.

Scientists say that today's computer chips are like a single card from a deck of cards. They're two-dimensional, each one with its own integrated circuit on top.

With the new IBM technology, scientists say, they'll be able to build chips out of stacks of circuits -- in effect putting the card back in the deck.

"So now you can build up a three-dimensional structure as a deck of cards, where the copper layers now would form electrical interconnects on each card," Danyluk said. "And you could get power in and get heat out."

And instead of going just straight through, as in a two-dimensional chip, "you can go up and down," he said.

The new IBM chip is not just a breakthrough, scientists say -- it's the start of a new era in microprocessor technology.


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