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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Acer Goes Big on Glasses-Free, 3D Monitors—Look Out, VR

Is this what’s needed to bring augmented reality to the home office?

4 min read
A standing tablet computer shows a blow out of a car that appears to be coming out of the display.

Content creators are a key target for Acer's glasses-free 3D.

Acer

Acer, the world’s fifth largest PC brand, wants to take the growing AR/VR market by the horns with its SpatialLabs glasses-free stereoscopic 3D displays.

First teased in 2021 in a variant of Acer’s ConceptD 7 laptop, the technology expands this summer in a pair of portable monitors, the SpatialLabs View and View Pro, and select Acer Predator gaming laptops. The launch is paired with AI-powered software for converting existing 2D content into stereoscopic 3D.

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DARPA Wants a Better, Badder Caspian Sea Monster

Liberty Lifter X-plane will leverage ground effect

4 min read
A rendering of a grey seaplane with twin fuselages and backwards-facing propellers
DARPA

Arguably, the primary job of any military organization is moving enormous amounts of stuff from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some of that stuff is weaponry, but the vast majority are things that support that weaponry—fuel, spare parts, personnel, and so on. At the moment, the U.S. military has two options when it comes to transporting large amounts of payload. Option one is boats (a sealift), which are efficient, but also slow and require ports. Option two is planes (an airlift), which are faster by a couple of orders of magnitude, but also expensive and require runways.

To solve this, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to combine traditional sealift and airlift with the Liberty Lifter program, which aims to “design, build, and flight test an affordable, innovative, and disruptive seaplane” that “enables efficient theater-range transport of large payloads at speeds far exceeding existing sea lift platforms.”

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Distinguishing weak signals from noise is a challenging task in data acquisition. In this webinar, we will explain challenges and explore solutions. Register now!
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