The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Phase-Change Materials Could Boost Reconfigurable Chips

More powerful FPGAs and other reconfigurable chips could come from vertical wires made from phase-change material

3 min read

28 January 2008--A technology that would allow a computer chip to change the electrical resistance of some of its own wiring could lead to more-powerful reconfigurable microchips that can quickly adapt themselves to new tasks, researchers at IBM say.

Engineers at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., produced a prototype device based on a type of material found in experimental memory chips. Normally, a ”via,” a hole leading from one layer of a chip’s wiring to another, is filled with a metal such as tungsten to provide an electrical connection between the layers. But in this case, the researchers used a phase-change material, a substance whose conductance can be switched between two states by briefly melting it. ”By changing the state of the phase-change material, you create an on-off switch,” says Kuan-Neng Chen, the research staff member who led the project.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

Keep Reading ↓Show less