Compound Semiconductors Join the Race to Sustain Moore’s Law

Chip leaders fabricate silicon wafers with transistors containing exotic semiconductors

3 min read
Compound Semiconductors Join the Race to Sustain Moore’s Law
Changing the Channel: IBM engineers made transistors with indium gallium arsenide and silicon germanium components on the same silicon wafer.
Image: IBM Zurich Research Laboratory

Engineers at Imec and IBM have independently developed new manufacturing processes for making the next decade’s leading chips, they revealed late last year.

These efforts will allow the marriage of silicon wafers and certain exotic materials—compound semiconductors with ingredients from columns III and V of the old periodic table. This mixing of materials holds the key to maintaining the traditional performance improvements associated with Moore’s Law and the shrinking of transistor dimensions.

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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.

Avicena

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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