IBM Says Shielding Lets It Build Faster Chips

LONDON (04/03/2000) - IBM Corp. has developed a new method for building microchips that can boost speed and performance by up to 30 percent, the company said today.

The technique uses a material called a "low-k dielectric" to shield millions of copper circuits on a single chip, reducing electrical interference between wires that usually drain power and performance, the company said in a statement.

On ordinary chips, the closer together the circuits, the worse the interference with each other, just like the "crosstalk" that is caused by telephone lines being too close together. Because this "crosstalk" on chips can interfere with commands, there is a limit to the amount of circuits that can be put on a board.

The IBM design, along with the "low-k" material from Dow Chemical Co. forms a tighter seal around the chip wiring, so the signals can move faster as well as greatly reducing interference, IBM said.

The company said it will begin using the technology immediately, designing high-performance, low- power consuming chips for next generation networking equipment and Internet servers. The first products using the technology will be available next year, the company said.

IBM today also announced a custom chip, the Cu-11, based on the new manufacturing process. The new chip uses IBM's 0.13 micron technology, and can support up to 40 million gates, or circuits, the company said. The Cu-11 design kits, including software tools and services, will be available from July, IBM said in the statement.

IBM, in Armonk, New York, can be reached at +1-914-765-1900 or at http://www.ibm.com/.

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