4 Replies Latest reply on Feb 2, 2010 1:58 PM by Felix_M

    Ramifications of oversized, low density processors

    Green Belt

      I am a student at the University of Michigan, and I was looking into a theoretical computer design, and I was hoping you might be able to answer some questions regarding to cost, power, and heat concerns for an over-sized but low density processor.

       

      For example, what would the possible processor speed be on a two foot square processor, with only pentium 4 transistor concentration (but current day cooling and materials technology)? would heat be an issue even though the transistors are so sparsely separated?

       

      Also, if this product were already on the market, would it be relatively more or less expensive due to raw material usage, considering the simple architecture? would it be possible to sell it for under 1000 dollars?

       

      What I am looking to research is the possibility of hiding computers in furniture, thereby removing any space limitations and allowing the parts to be made as inexpensively as possible, and yet getting an obscenely powerful computer. For example, the 2 foot processor, if it only had 10\% density per area compared to the pentium 4, would still have about 20 times the space for transistors. (and by my very limited logic, 20 times the processing power). this behemoth, while very underpowered (per size) for commercial use, could perhaps be a very inexpensive way to get cheap and outrageously powerful computers to the consumer.

       

      If you can answer these questions, even in the most general sense (i am not using this in any kind of scientific calculation), keep in mind that I am looking into maximum power per price, without regard to space required. I am hoping to be able to, in the end, crunch the numbers for a 3-4 thousand dollar 5 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot computer with 10-30 gHz processing speed. The other components such as RAM, hard disk space, and cooling are easier to calculate because i can easily just put 10 RAM cards next to each other (assuming of course we had the right infrastructure) but processors work differently, and i am not familiar with how.

        • Re: Ramifications of oversized, low density processors
          Felix_M BlackBelt

          Hello

           

          Welcome to the Intel® Embedded Community.

           

          Interesting concept. This community is focused on embedded systems and I would have never thought that could include embedding a computer into furniture. Gives a whole new meaning to "desktop computer", I guess. 

           

          Obviously making a larger, less dense processor is exactly the opposite of what the industry has been doing forever.  Although I suppose it could be argued that multi-core processors are a step in that direction, e.g. integrating multiple, slightly slower processors on a chip rather than cranking up the speed and density of a single core. 

           

          Let's see if anyone has some ideas to share with you.

           

          Good Luck with your research project,

           

          Felix

           

            • Re: Ramifications of oversized, low density processors
              Green Belt

               

              Here are some of the challenges that you could run into.

               

              - It will be insanely expensive to make a processor that is 2' X 2'. Think of all the silicon that it would require. I won’t be surprised if it cost 100X the current cost .

               

               - Usually power and performance are tied together. To get more performance you need more power (or change the architectural design).

               

                • Re: Ramifications of oversized, low density processors
                  Green Belt

                  certainly i am not disagreeing with you, i just want to clarify- you are saying the high cost of processors is because of the raw materials, and not the fabrication process? what i had been hoping was as the fabrication would be much simpler and easier (considering the scale) that it would at least partially cover the cost of the silicon.

                   

                  If that is the case, then, would it be feasible to run multiple processors using the same system?  obviously taking advantage of space to solve heat issues.  Assuming software isn't an issue, of course.

                    • Re: Ramifications of oversized, low density processors
                      Felix_M BlackBelt

                      While there are obviously other raw materials included, Silicon is the second most abundant element on earth so the cost of a processor is not in the materials but the very complex and expensive fab process.   I am sure that C-Akella's comment about silicon cost was not about a truckload of beach sand but rather the final cost of a silicon wafer.  While you may be able to reduce the  cost for a simpler design, a single wafer yields hundreds of processors (die) among which the cost is distributed.  So the economics don't get you where want to go. 

                       

                      Here's a good tutorial on the chip making process: 

                       

                      http://www.intel.com/pressroom/kits/chipmaking/index.htm

                       

                      By the way, Intel's leading edge fabs produce 300mm (approx 12-inch) diameter wafers, much smaller than your 2-foot idea.  The next generation will be 450mm due in a few years.  Historically, it has taken about a decade for the industry to migrate to the next larger wafer size, e.g. 200mm in 1991, 300mm in 2001....

                       

                      Creating a system of multiple separate processors is a widely proven usage model.  So you could easily pack a bunch of processors onto a 2-foot Printed Circuit Board (PCB), or even spread them around on separate modules networked together.  Of course you need to factor in slower interconnect speeds compared to on-chip.  For that matter you can buy commercial products today with multiple processors on a board.   How well you could bury them inside furniture is another story....

                       

                      Felix