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Fast Films

New insulators will save us from the “dirty little secret” that threatens Moore’s law

11 min read
A cross-sectional glimpse of an IBM chip’s eight levels of copper wires.
A scanning electron microscope gives a cross-sectional glimpse of an IBM chip’s eight levels of copper wires (pink) and low- k insulation (dark blue). At bottom are some transistors on the silicon-on-insulator substrate (light blue).
Image: IBM

So Far, so good. Semiconductor makers have been on a roll for three decades, shrinking transistors to improve chip performance—and their bottom line. Today, state-of-the-art chips have transistors roughly a micrometer in overall length; dozens of them could perch on top of a human red blood cell. But this very success has brought the chipmakers to the brink of a steep, new obstacle to further gains in performance.

At the crux of the problem are the tiny metal wires that weave the transistors on today’s chips into integrated circuits. In the most advanced ICs, transistors switch up to 10 billion times a second, and their metal interconnects can barely keep up. The narrower the wire, the longer it takes a signal to propagate along it. And each new generation of chips only makes matters worse: while interconnect delay times are stretching out, transistor switching is getting faster, sending more signals down slow lines.

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Paying Tribute to 1997 IEEE President Charles K. Alexander

The Life Fellow was a professor at Cleveland State University

4 min read
portrait of man smiling against a light background
The Alexander Family

Charles K. Alexander, 1997 IEEE president, died on 17 October at the age of 79.

The active volunteer held many high-level positions throughout the organization, including 1991–1992 IEEE Region 2 director. He was also the 1993 vice president of the IEEE United States Activities Board (now IEEE-USA).

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Robot Learns Human Trick for Not Falling Over

Humanoid limbs are useful for more than just manipulation

3 min read
A black and white humanoid robot with a malfunctioning leg supports itself with one arm against a wall

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Humanoid robots are a lot more capable than they used to be, but for most of them, falling over is still borderline catastrophic. Understandably, the focus has been on getting humanoid robots to succeed at things as opposed to getting robots to tolerate (or recover from) failing at things, but sometimes, failure is inevitable because stuff happens that’s outside your control. Earthquakes, accidentally clumsy grad students, tornadoes, deliberately malicious grad students—the list goes on.

When humans lose their balance, the go-to strategy is a highly effective one: use whatever happens to be nearby to keep from falling over. While for humans this approach is instinctive, it’s a hard problem for robots, involving perception, semantic understanding, motion planning, and careful force control, all executed under aggressive time constraints. In a paper published earlier this year in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, researchers at Inria in France show some early work getting a TALOS humanoid robot to use a nearby wall to successfully keep itself from taking a tumble.

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Fourth Generation Digitizers With Easy-to-Use API

Learn about the latest generation high-performance data acquisition boards from Teledyne

1 min read

In this webinar, we explain the design principles and operation of our fourth-generation digitizers with a focus on the application programming interface (API).

Register now for this free webinar!

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