UP technology team may have answer to international computing dilemma

A research team at the Carl & Emily Fuchs Institute of Micro-electronics (CEFIM) could solve the interconnect dilemma on computer chips that is threatening slow down the tempo of computer microchip development.

On Friday, June 22, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, visited CEFIM to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the institute. This occasion also saw the announcement of a R15m boost from the SA Intellectual Property Fund for the InSIAva project. The InSIAva (Injection-enhanced Silicon in Avalanche) could potentially find application in chip-to-chip and on-chip optical communication in all computer hardware world-wide.

The world is currently faced with a situation where computer users are insisting on smaller and faster semiconductor products with smaller and more powerful integrated circuits. However, thinner interconnect lines between the transistors between and on chips slows the speed of processing. If the problem, known as the interconnect dilemma, is not resolved, it could significantly slow down development in the IT industry before the end of the decade.

CEFIM embarked on research into next generation silicon-based injection enhanced light-emitting devices that can bring about a breakthrough. This technology uses photonic devices to perform fast clock and signal distribution in integrated circuits so that power consumption can be reduced by approximately 50%. The devices have the added bonus of low manufacturing costs, being fully integratable and improving resistance to electronic magnetic interference.

Speaking at the celebrations, Deputy Minister Hanekom said it is significant that South Africa is among the race leaders when it comes to finding solutions to the interconnect problem. “CEFIM identified this dilemma as early as 1994… For the University of Pretoria and the Fuchs Foundation to have invested tens of millions of Rand over 14 years to develop a light source for optical data transfer on computer chips was both visionary and brave,” he said.

dignatories at cefim celebration

Prof. Roelf Sandenbergh (Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment & Information Technology), Prof. Esme du Plessis (Chairperson of UP Council), Deputy Minister Derek Hanekom, Dr Phil Mjwara (DG of the Department of Science & Technology), Prof. Calie Pistorius (UP Vice Chancellor) 

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