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Tiny Springs Could Reduce Microchip Waste

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metal micro springs

Metal springs turn the connection of computer chips to circuit boards into a reversible process, making it possible to replace a broken chip without throwing out the whole board.

Credit: Palo Alto Research Center

Palo Alto Research Center researchers led by Eugene Chow have developed a technique for making computer chips more reliable and less wasteful. The researchers pattern a surface with microscale springs that compress slightly under a chip's weight. The springs form a lasting, secure electronic connection when the two surfaces are glued together.

Chow says the spring-approach is designed for the processors used in supercomputers or high-end servers. The chips are combined into multichip modules, a design that accelerates signal transfer when the modules are packed closely together. "Eventually this could be in a high-end cell phone—everyone wants to get more chips into everything, and this can help, because the pitch [the horizontal distance between connections] can be so small," Chow says.

The finished spring is coated with a layer of gold for strength and a better electronic connection. Chow says manufacturers can position the electronic springs more accurately than solder, which helps boost computing performance.

From Technology Review
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