IBM and 3M Corp. are developing a new type of electronic “glue” that can be used to build stacks of semiconductor—3D chips. The glue, shown in blue above, connects up to 100 separate chips as it conducts heat away from the silicon package. The innovation will create microprocessors 1,000 times more powerful than today’s PC chips. Image: IBM
3M and IBM announced that the two companies plan to jointly
develop the first adhesives that can be used to package semiconductors into
densely stacked silicon “towers.” The companies are aiming to create a new
class of materials, which will make it possible to build, for the first time,
commercial microprocessors composed of layers of up to 100 separate chips.
Such stacking would allow for higher levels of integration
for information technology and consumer electronics applications. Processors
could be tightly packed with memory and networking, for example, into a “brick”
of silicon that would create a computer chip 1,000 times faster than today’s
fastest microprocessor enabling more powerful smartphones, tablets, computers,
and gaming devices.
The companies’ work can potentially leapfrog today’s current
attempts at stacking chips vertically—known as 3D packaging. The joint research
tackles some of the thorniest technical issues underlying the industry’s move
to true 3D chip forms. For example, new types of adhesives are needed that can
efficiently conduct heat through a densely packed stack of chips and away from
heat-sensitive components such as logic circuits.
“Today’s chips, including those containing 3D transistors,
are in fact 2D chips that are still very flat structures,” says Bernard
Meyerson, vice president of research, IBM. “Our scientists are aiming to
develop materials that will allow us to package tremendous amounts of computing
power into a new form factor—a silicon ‘skyscraper.’ We believe we can advance
the state-of-art in packaging, and create a new class of semiconductors that
offer more speed and capabilities while they keep power usage low—key
requirements for many manufacturers, especially for makers of tablets and
Bonding entire wafers is a goal
Many types of semiconductors, including those for servers and games, today
require packaging and bonding techniques that can only be applied to individual
chips. 3M and IBM plan to develop adhesives that can be applied to silicon
wafers, coating hundreds or even thousands of chips at a single time. Current
processes are akin to frosting a cake slice-by-slice.
Under the agreement, IBM will draw on its expertise in
creating unique semiconductor packaging processes, and 3M will provide its
expertise in developing and manufacturing adhesive materials.
“Capitalizing on our joint know-how and industry experience,
3M looks forward to working alongside IBM—a leader in developing pioneering
packaging for next-generation semiconductors,” says Herve Gindre, division vice
president at 3M Electronics Markets Materials Division. “3M has worked with IBM
for many years and this brings our relationship to a new level. We are very
excited to be an integral part of the movement to build such revolutionary 3D
Adhesives are one of 3M’s 46 core technology platforms. 3M
adhesives are precisely engineered to fit customers’ needs and are ubiquitous—used
in a multitude of diverse products and industries including high-tech
applications, such as the semiconductor industry, consumer electronic devices,
aerospace, and solar applications.