What could be the recipe for 3D chips?

One possible answer to the issue of how to develop 3D chips has been suggested by researchers at the University of Leeds.

`We now have the molecular machinery to bring about a revolution in supercomputing.’

This is the ambitious claim of Professor Richard Bushby, whose team is just a few months into a project which he believes could enable the connection of microchips in 3 dimensions.

Theoretically, the more elements that can be squeezed onto each chip, the faster and more powerful computers become, but space on chips is limited, and stacking them on top of each other causes horrendous and practically insurmountable wiring problems.

To get around this problem, the Leeds scientists are attempting to `grow’ connections between layers of chips using conductive molecules which form thin strands between computer chips. These strands, they claim, will form the electrical connections necessary to create 3D circuits.

Disc shaped liquid crystals developed and patented by Bushby and his colleague Professor Nigel Bodel, form themselves into stacks like piles of dinner plates. Each plate has a central core made of conducting Carbon surrounded by a rim of insulating hydrocarbon assembling into perfect molecular wires, and Bushby is confident that these wires can be used to join up chip circuitry vertically.

The team is currently assessing the electrical properties and reliability of four different molecular wire technologies using a system which emulates the 3D structure of the human retina and visual cortex, and Bushby believes that 3D microchips will begin finding their way onto the market in about 10 years time.