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IBM Researchers Use Sandcastle Mechanics to Improve Heat Dissipation in Stacked Chips

Q, How did the idea of using capillary bridging come up?
We were attempting to approach this problem using more traditional techniques but all of them were deal breakers. So we approached some of our colleagues working on nanoassembly for possible solutions, and Dr. Heiko Wolf came up with the idea because he had worked on the problem and is very much focused on directed particle self-assembly. He thought of this right away.

Q. What is the timeline for what you’re working on?
We have been consistently working on it to prove the superiority of this approach and have obtained already a 5x improvement compared to state-of-the-art materials. As a result, we could attract funding from the European FP7 Framework Program and will start exploring the high-volume manufacturing capability of the approach starting next year with nine more partners throughout Europe. The goal is to be ready to introduce the process into first products to test reliability at the end of the three-year project.

Q. Do you think this type of technology can be used in the mass production of stacked chips?
We believe now it’s perfectly well suited for that. Again, further experiments have to be done to demonstrate the overall thermal benefit.

Q. This research was announced at a recent iMAPS conference. How was it received by your peers?
When Dr. Thomas Brunschwiler, one of the other authors of the paper, presented this at the conference, it was very well received as it tackles the fundamental issue of the point contacts being bottlenecks for the thermal transport in composite materials, and it was honored with the best paper award of the conference. I’m sure it will spur more interest in this area and get more universities, research institutes and companies interested in exploring it further, which is a good thing, because it’s ideally suited for a collaborative-type environment because of its sequential nature. You can look at the particles first and then formulate the distribution and processing of nanoparticles with different temperatures, times and so on. That way, we can isolate different aspects for one to look at in experiments.

Furthermore, the concept might be investigated in other fields such as photovoltaic cells, thermoelectric generators and structural adhesives in aerospace, all benefiting from this now-available approach to tailoring composite material properties.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.

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