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University Proposes Center To Design Cooler Chips

University researchers say new technologies are needed to reduce the amount of heat generated by advanced computer processors.
Chip-cooling technologies may "hit a brick wall" in the next 15 to 20 years, and a group of university researchers are proposing the creation of a center dedicated to developing new technologies to cool advanced computer processors.

"We've got to begin working on this problem now, or the computer industry is going to hit a brick wall in abut 15 years," said Suresh Garimella, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, in a statement.

Garimella believes that future computer chips will generate as much as 10 times more heat than today. New chips will need to be co-designed by engineers who create the integrated circuits and specialists who make cooling systems, the professor said.

Purdue officials are proposing a Center for Electrothermal Co-Design of Future Electronics, which would have the participation of research from as many as eight universities, and could begin operating as soon as next summer. The proposal has been submitted to the National Science Foundation.

Garimella is leading the effort, along with Sachin Sapatnekar of the University of Minnesota.

The center would create prototypes that contain circuits and devices that run on less electricity and produce less heat while using miniature cooling systems. There also would be a focus on developing software that would aid engineers in designing the new chips.

Representatives of about 25 companies and federal agencies attend a workshop at Purdue in March to discuss the center and related issues. The attendees included individuals from Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, NASA's Ames Research Center, Nokia, and U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency.