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Dark Silicon: Looking to monolithic 3D for ray of light

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dark silicon? monolithic 3D? ARM? ST? IBM?

Looking towards the future, traditional dimensional scaling seems to offer no clear path in sight.

Although traditional dimensional scaling looks ever darker, the emerging monolithic 3D technology is poised to bring back the light.

The term "dark silicon" refers to those portions of a device that need to be shut down in order to avoid overheating. In a recent IEDM 2014 short course by ARM's principal engineer, Greg Yeric, dark silicon was projected to account for "about one-third of total area in the 20nm technology node (including 16/14nm FinFETs), increasing to as much as 80 per cent by the 5nm node," as reported by a recent Darker Silicon blog. Unlike the time that dimensional scaling could follow Dennard's Law, it is now getting harder to thin the gate dielectric without causing extreme rise in device leakage, and "as a result, while feature sizes have continued to shrink, threshold voltage has not." The following chart is from a DAC 2013 paper titled The EDA Challenges in the Dark Silicon Era:

Dark silicon trends for different technology nodes

This dark outlook seems even darker once the cost of this silicon is taken into account. At the last SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS), as reported in a blog titled Exponentially Rising Costs Will Bring Changes, Scott McGregor, president and CEO of Broadcom, presented the following charts:

Cost per transistor rising

Dramatic rise in design cost


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