Photos: Inside IBM's Zurich research lab

Photos: Inside IBM's Zurich research lab

Summary: The scanning tunnelling microscope is one of the Nobel prize-winning technical breakthroughs to come out of IBM's Zurich laboratory. ZDNet UK went to have a peek at what the lab is working on now, as it gears up to celebrate its 50th birthday

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

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  • Instead of a heat sink, chips could be covered with a liquid cooling device. This is an "immersion jet impingement" with distributed coolant returns.

    The device is about the size of the packaging on a current Pentium processor but inside that small space there are 50,000 coolant nozzles. The result is that coolant can be circulated very quickly.

    Dr Michel believes this is another promising research strand.

  • Another area under examination is "the I/O bottleneck". As Dr Christian Menolfi who specialises in I/O links explained, you can see the issue simply by looking at the back of an I/O processor.

    "Pin counts are getting very large," Dr Menolfi said. "We are looking at needing 1,000 just for I/O. The complications of the I/O pins are growing faster than the number of pins. This is the package bottleneck."

    The answer, according to Dr Menolfi, is advanced, multi-channel signalling (shown in the top-left display). By arranging the I/O channels in the optimum configuration the Zurich researchers hope to guarantee maximum data throughput.

  • Optical technology could also be used to improve signalling performance. Dr Christoph Berger, a Zurich specialist in this area, demonstrated the theories and practice of optical devices.

    This is a four-way, optical interconnect unit. Mountings for two processors are shown with space for two more.

    The processors sit on the mounts. If you attach a microprocessor to a mounting and optical cables to both the input and an output, it is possible to look down one cable and see through the other.

    Showing the capability to see one's own hand through a cable that compresses down to run across a microprocessor is one of the more eye-catching (no pun intended) demonstrations at the IBM Zurich laboratory.

Topic: Emerging Tech


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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