IBM's eFuse technology portends adaptable chips
By Spencer Chin
July 30, 2004 (3:00 PM EDT)
MANHASSET, N.Y. — IBM Corp. unveiled new chip technology on Friday (July 30) that it said is able to adjust its own functionality and perform trade-offs between performance and power consumption without human intervention.
The technology, called "eFuse," is said to combine software algorithms and microscopic electrical fuses to produce chips able to regulate and adapt to their own actions in response to changing conditions and system demands.
By employing the autonomic capability, the technology is expected to alter the way chips are designed, manufactured and integrated into electronic products, according to IBM.
"eFuse reroutes chip logic, much the way highway traffic patterns can be altered by opening and closing new lanes," Bernard Meyerson, vice president and chief technologist of IBM Systems and Technology Group, said in a statement.
The technology works by constantly monitoring chip functionality and initiating corrective actions by tripping inexpensive, simple electrical fuses that are designed into the chip. The activated fuses help the chip control individual circuit speed to manage power consumption and repair unexpected, potentially costly flaws.
For instance, if the technology detects the chip is malfunctioning because individual circuits are running too fast or slow, it can either slow or speed the circuits by regulating the appropriate local voltage.
The eFuse technology was originally referenced in an IBM technical paper on embedded DRAM in November 2002. It successfully employs electromigration, a technique that has traditionally been detrimental to chip performance and been avoided in design.
IBM said it was able to successfully harness electromigration and use it to program a fuse without damaging other chip parts. This is in contrast to previous electromigration efforts that ruptured fuses and caused subsequent performance and reliability problems.
IBM plans to employ eFuse in microprocessors based on the company's Power Architecture, including Power5 and other chips used in IBM eServer systems, as well as low-power IBM silicon germanium chips. It has begun eFuse production at its 300-mm facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., and its 200-mm plant in Burlington, Vt.