NASA Building Heat-Resistant Chips

NASA researchers have designed and built a new circuit chip that can "take the heat of a blast furnace and keep on performing."

Rich Miller

September 12, 2007

2 Min Read
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NASA researchers have designed and built a new circuit chip that can "take the heat of a blast furnace and keep on performing," according to a story at Network World, which is also being dissected over at Slashdot. Here's a summary:

Silicon Carbide (SiC) chips can operate in 600 degrees Celsius or 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit where conventional silicon-based electronics - limited to about 350 C - would fail. In the past, integrated circuit chips could not withstand more than a few hours of high temperatures before degrading or failing. This chip exceeded 1,700 hours of continuous operation at 500 degrees Celsius - a breakthrough that represents a 100-fold increase in what has previously been achieved, NASA said.

The NASA chip is obviously designed for extreme conditions, as opposed to a traditional data center. It may be an apples vs. oranges comparison to view the NASA research as having short-term application in IT equipment in data center "hot spots." But there's been some discussion lately - notably at the Always On Stanford Summit in August - of developing data center equipment that won't require traditional cooling. Some see self-contained computing modules along the lines of Sun's Blackbox or IBM's Scalable Modular Data Center as the next step forward, while others see heat-resistant components as the best way forward.

"We do have a number of data center components now available that are rugged enough to withstand constant 50-degree Centigrade (122-degree Fahrenheit) temperatures," Steve Sams, IBM vice president of global sites and facilities, said at the Always On forum. "It's not hard to imagine that we'll eventually get to full data centers that won't need cooling equipment. These will be hundreds of times more efficient. And what a savings in power draw that will be."

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