IBM opens up silicon-on-insulator chip process

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IBM opens up silicon-on-insulator chip process

USA - IBM has made its silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology available to its Application Specific Integrated Circuit (Asic) customers for the first time.

The firm is scheduled to officially unveil the offering later today at the Design Automation Conference in San Diego.

SOI was previously applied only in regular processors such IBM's Power chips and the Cell processor that drives Sony's PlayStation 3 gaming console.

The term SOI refers to the use of a layered silicon-insulator-silicon substrate instead of conventional complementary metal-oxide (CMOS) technology in semiconductor manufacturing.

Although SOI is more expensive to manufacture than plain silicon, it allows for a 30 per cent cut in power consumption and a 30 per cent performance boost.

The technology also offers a significant reduction in so-called 'soft errors' compared with CMOS chips. 'Soft errors' occur when a chip attempts to read/write the same location and is a growing concern for mission critical systems.

Asic designs are common in applications including gaming consoles, networking gear, cellphones and consumer electronics devices such as digital cameras.

They typically combine a general purpose processor with programmable memory that allows the device maker to tailor the chip to its needs.

IBM unveiled a technology in February that allows the programmable memory to be manufactured using an SOI production process.

The firm's so-called embedded dynamic random access memory removed the final obstacle for SOI-based Asics.
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