Art of Failure 2011

The surprising stuff you find when chips fail

1 min read

Image: Rudolf A. Sia
First place went to this charming image, which looks like a silhouette of an apatosaurus on a small, rocky planet. The planet is a ball of solder made of a mixture of tin and lead, and the silhouette is an anomalous patch of pure lead on the surface.

Sometimes art is accidental. At IEEE's 18th International Symposium on the Physical and Failure Analysis of Integrated Circuits, held 4 to 7 July in Incheon, South Korea, participants submitted pictures of surreal and spectacular close-ups of microchips, competing for the most affecting image. This is the fourth year IEEE Spectrum has featured the finalists from IPFA's "Art of Failure Analysis" contest. Click on the links for winners from 2010, 2009, and 2008.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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