One of the richest untapped power sources in the world lies deep beneath our feet: geothermal energy at the Earth’s core. Unfortunately, tapping into that energy has been next to impossible until now, due to the extreme temperatures closer to the core (upwards of 7,000 degrees). Today, we took one step towards tapping into that power.
A new type of microchip developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems (IMS) could change that. The new, smaller chip can withstand temperatures in excess of 300 degrees Celsius without loss of performance….Engineers used a silicon-on-insulator (SOI) CMOS design to allow circuits stand up to higher temperatures. The SOI design is intended to combat an effect of heat known as current leakage. Each transistor in the IMS chip is essentially insulated from its neighbors by an additional non-conductive layer, thus preventing electrical currents from flowing outside the intended path (current leakage). Uncontrolled, current leakage causes errors and poor performance long before the chip itself melts into a pile of slag. In addition to the insulation protecting transistors, IMS opted to use tungsten in the chips rather than aluminum to reduce long-term damage from heat.
That’s downright awesome, and incredibly science fiction-esque. Of course, I’m sure there’s one question on everyone’s minds: when might we see such technology being made available for consumer electronics?