The quest to develop faster microprocessors - the tiny silicon chips that allow your computers do all the magical things they do - is never ending, with chip manufactures spending millions of dollars in research each year. In the past, they have succeeded in doubling the processing speed roughly every two years, by simply shrinking the size of the transistors, so that more could be fitted onto each microchip.
However, after using the same 'trick' for the last 40 years, researchers now believe that we may have reached our limit - Not because they can't shrink the transistors, but because there is not enough energy to power them, once all of them were loaded onto the chip.
So the next logical solution is to try stack the microchips on top of each other. However, there are two issues that have to be resolved before that is possible. Most chips communicate via a very small number of connections that are fitted on their exterior edge - This in turn, limits the transmission of electric signals and therefore, would not work well if the chips were stacked on top of each other. This however, is solvable by simply adding zillions of connections all around the chips so that the signals can pass through easily.
The bigger problem is the heat generated by microprocessors - Gluing them using a conventional adhesive would simply result in the chips melting. Now, tech giant IBM has partnered with materials company 3M to see if they can come up with a better adhesive.
They envision the special glue to be able to dissipate heat so fast, that they can layer the chips on top of each other and create silicon 'stacks' that are up to 1,000 times faster than the microprocessors that are currently in the market.
The companies anticipate the new chips to go into production by 2013, showing up first inside commercial servers and then in consumer products like computers, Smartphones and anything else that requires microprocessors. Who would have guessed that something as mundane as adhesive might end up making such a astounding difference!
Resources: io9.com, blogs.wsj.com, ibm.com