The Art of Failure 2010

The beauty-and creepiness-of chip defects

1 min read

Image: Rahmat Agung Susantyoko
This year’s first-prize winner in the “Art of Failure Analysis” contest is an image of a bed of 0.13-micrometer-wide “nanoflowers” sitting on a silicon substrate. The flowers “blossomed” when an array of vertically oriented silicon nanowires bent from their original upright position. Rahmat Agung Susantyoko, who took the image, was given the task of monitoring the height of arrays of silicon nanowires. Nanowires of a certain height bent together to form the flowers.

Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, one person’s systems failure is another one’s masterpiece. This is the third year that the “Art of Failure Analysis”was featured at the IEEE International Symposium on the Physical and Failure Analysis of Integrated Circuits (IPFA). Participants submitted the most intriguing images they’d captured during chip autopsies. Favorite pictures from the collection, which range from charming to just plain creepy, were on display at the symposium from 5 to 9 July in Singapore.

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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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