Secret To Self-Repairing Computer Chip Is "Graceful Degradation"

computer chip photo

Photo by Andrew Cavell via Flickr Creative Commons

Computer chips continue to get smaller and smaller, but as a trade off they also get more fragile. Could the secret to making tiny chips last longer lay in getting them to repair themselves? A team of four companies and two universities has demonstrated just such a chip, which can reroute tasks and check its own performance to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Gizmag writes, "Anticipating a point at which chips will become too tiny to maintain their current level of resilience, [the team has] created what they say could be the solution - a chip that monitors its own performance, and redirects tasks as needed."

The Cutting-edge Reconfigurable ICs for Stream Processing, or CRISP, consortium has taken a closer look at what chips need to keep running, and running well, and it comes down to a chip that has multiple cores to which it can direct tasks.

Hans Kerkhoff of The Netherlands' University of Twente, and part of the CRISP consortium points out that the solution to keeping chips functioning is to make architecture that can degrade while functioning, rather than non-degradable chips. He calls this "graceful degradation."

Graceful degradation is accomplished with a chip that can assign different tasks to different cores, test the connections to the cores, and reroute tasks when a connection becomes faulty. This means that even a damaged chip will still function at full capacity.

The group demonstrated just such a working chip recently at the DATE2011 conference in Grenoble, France. CRISP states that these chips can be used in a wide range of consumer electronics. And if chips last longer, consumers are less likely to toss gadgets that stop functioning, even if they're repairable. These new multicore chips could help devices last longer, and potentially reduce the turn-over of electronics.

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