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Heat dissipation of the latest Intel processors, such as high end Pentium 4 and Pentium 4 E, has become a widely discussed issue. Reasons and consequences of astonishingly high thermal levels Intel’s chips achieve is probably something the industry is looking at pretty thoroughly, as the general trend for semiconductors’ evolution is increase of heat dissipation, which rises necessity of cooling the chips down that also a problem itself. Intel seems to understand the difficulty very well, as the company’s Chief Technology Officer Patrick Gelsinger talked on the matter during IDF show.

“If unchecked, the increasing power requirements of computer chips could boost heat generation to absurdly high levels,” said Patrick Gelsinger, Intel’s CTO is reported to have said.

“By mid-decade, that Pentium PC may need the power of a nuclear reactor. By the end of the decade, you might as well be feeling a rocket nozzle than touching a chip. And soon after 2010, PC chips could feel like the bubbly hot surface of the sun itself,” Gelsinger continued, according to a Reuters report.

Meanwhile semiconductor makers implement thinner and tinier process technologies, due to increase transistor count as well as some other factors, modern general purpose processors along with graphics processors and communications processors consume loads of power and dissipate a lot of heat.

Intel’s latest Pentium 4 E processors have up to 103W thermal guideline for 3.20GHz and 3.40GHz versions and the figure is likely to increase throughout the year when faster speed bins are introduced. Although the main issue with Intel’s processors made at 90nm nodes seems to be process related, high core frequencies and complex design also drive chips temperatures up. Future processors from Advanced Micro Devices are also likely to dissipate about 105W in 8-12 months from now, sources close the Sunnyvale, California-based company said.

“We need a fresh approach,” Gelsinger said. “We need an architectural paradigm shift.”

Generally speaking, the Chief Technology Officer of the world’s biggest chipmaker has just outlined his company’s intention to review the approach of chip design. It is not fully clear when the consumers are going to experience the revamped way of developing CPUs – sometimes in mid-decade, or sometimes around the year 2010 or so, but the purpose itself is very positive.


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