IBM unveils “self-managing” chips

July 30, 2004 – IBM, East Fishkill, NY, has unveiled a chip-morphing technology to support a new class of semiconductors that can automatically monitor and adjust their performance and power consumption.

The “eFuse” technology, hinted at this spring at an IBM event, combines software algorithms and tiny electrical fuses to alter the configuration and efficiency of circuitry in order to avoid or correct problems on the chip, “much the way highway traffic patterns can be altered by opening and closing new lanes,” according to Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and chief technologist in IBM’s systems and technology group. For example, if an imperfection is detected, the fuses are tripped to alter local voltage in order to rev up or “throttle down” the malfunctioning part of the circuit — a process that can be repeated several times if necessary, IBM claims.

The technology, which does not require new materials, processes, or equipment, will be used with IBM’s Power5 chips as well as SiGe chips, and will be incorporated in all of IBM’s 90nm chips, including those with embedded DRAM. It’s already in production at IBM’s 300mm Fishkill fab and 200mm fab in Vermont.


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