Are motherboards and PCBs holding back computer performance?

Posted on Monday, Sep 30 2019 @ 09:40 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
A pair of researchers propose it may be time to rethink the entire PC ecosystem as the way computers are currently constructed may not be ideal for maximum performance. In an article for IEEE Spectrum, professors Puneet Gupta and Subramanian S. Iyer from the University of California at Los Angeles explain how bare chiplets on a silicon-interconnect fabric could not only make computers much smaller but also more powerful.

This radical rethink would mean the end of motherboards and PCBs. Instead, the professors want to bond the chip on a relatively thick silicon wafer. All other necessary components can be bonded directly to the silicon, this includes processors, memory dies, analog and RF chiplets, voltage-regulator modules, and even passive components such as inductors and capacitors. The chips and the silicon substrate contract and expand at the same rate as they cool and heat, which eliminates the need for solder bumps. Heat sinks can be mounted on both sides of the silicon-interconnect fabric (Si-IF), potentially boosting heat dissipation by up to 70 percent.
Silicon-interconnect fabric, or Si-IF, offers an added bonus. It’s an excellent path toward the dissolution of the f(relatively) big, complicated, and difficult-to-manufacture systems-on-chips that currently run everything from smartphones to supercomputers. In place of SoCs, system designers could use a conglomeration of smaller, simpler-to-design, and easier-to-manufacture chiplets tightly interconnected on an Si-IF. This chiplet revolution is already well under way, with AMD, Intel, Nvidia, and others offering chiplets assembled inside of advanced packages. Silicon-interconnect fabric expands that vision, breaking the system out of the package to include the entire computer.
Full details over here. There are some interesting points in the article, but it's definitely a radical rethink that would require cooperation from most of the industry. There are also drawbacks of course, especially in terms of modularity and expandability.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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