Not so long ago, our computers had a single core which had to be boosted for performance - making each machine into a great central heating system. Beyond 85° C, however, electronic components become unstable. Now, a new project could boost the computing performance of central processors by a factor 10 while consuming less energy.
Some years ago, computers had a single core which often led to problems: computers often were overheated. Most of today's consumer electronics proudly boast a "dual core" or "quad core". However, in time the technology will come up against the same physical limits. To overcome this physical limit, a solution was found with the multicore technology, here the same chip includes several processors which share tasks: Researchers at EPFL in Lausanne and its partners developped 3D microprocessors cooled from the inside through channels as thin as a human hair filled with a liquid coolant. These processors are 10 times more powerful with as many transistors per cubic centimetre as there are neurons in the same volume of a human brain - a unctional density greater than ever before.
The advantage is that the entire surface of the core can be connected to the next layer, through 100 to 10,0000 connections per mm2. Shorter and more numerous, these minute interconnects should ensure that data transfer is 10 times faster, while reducing energy consumption and heat. The Environment at Stake The technological challenge is clear in terms of performance. But there is also an environmental stake.
As John R. Thome, of the EPFL, explains: "In the United States, the industry's data centres already consume as much as 2% of available electricity. As consumption doubles over a five-year period, the supercomputers of 2100 would theoretically use up the whole of the USA's electrical supply!"