ITHACA, N.Y. -- A $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Electronic Packaging Program at Cornell University will support the design and construction of a novel fabrication and characterization tool for industry -- a PICT (precision interconnect cluster tool) capable of attaching integrated circuits with at least 10 times more connections than today's most powerful chips.
Dubbed the Connection Machine, the PICT from the Cornell Electronic Packaging Program could help the industry meet a technology goal: microprocessors with 5,400 connections by the year 2009, and 7,300 connections by 2012. In comparison, today's leading microprocessor chip, the Intel Pentium II, has "only" about 500 metallic connections between the chip itself and the circuit board. Such connections allow chips in computers, cellular phones, digital cameras and other electronic equipment to communicate with others at ever-increasing rates.
"By 2009, new materials, structures and processes will give us chips with as many as 84 million transistors. But those chips can't communicate without package connections," explained Peter Krusius, director of the Electronic Packaging Program at Cornell and principal investigator on the three-year Connection Machine project. "As chips become more complex, we have to follow and make much denser arrays of connections."
In addition to support through the NSF's Major Research Instrumentation program, Cornell will provide $390,000 in matching funds to the project. The Connection Machine will be built in the Advanced Facility for Electronic Packaging (AFEP) in Cornell's College of Engineering. AFEP Manager Alex Deyhim will oversee daily operations of the construction team, with experts from Universal Instruments Corp. in Binghamton, IBM in Endicott, and ESEC Corp. in Melbourne, Fla. serving as industrial advisers. Cornell Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Che-Yu Li is the co-principal investigator on the project.
The Connection Machine is expected to become operational in the second year of the project and will facilitate new high-density and high-precision connection research and development for academic researchers at Cornell and other universities, as well as researchers from industry. Member companies of the Industry-Cornell University Alliance for Electronic Packaging and the Semiconductor Research Corp. are anticipated to be industrial users of the new technology, Krusius said, noting that the Connection Machine will result in capabilities directly applicable to industrial manufacturing.
"We expect this research to provide new understanding of advanced concepts, new materials, novel processes, advanced structures and reliability for many generations of future chip and package connections," Krusius said.