2004 R&D 100 Winner
The semiconductor and electronic device industry will benefit from a new approach in integrated circuit (IC) design focusing on ease-of-use and streamlining operations. Ivan Sutherland and Robert Drost at Sun Microsystems, Inc., Mountain View, Calif., have developed a new high speed chip-to-chip interconnect technology using capacitive coupling the ability of two electrically charged devices to transmit signals directly to another next to it. With Proximity Communication more simultaneous connections are possible than when using pins since a much higher number of transmitter/receiver pairs can be inserted in a specific area.

Unlike competitive methods, Proximity Communication allows the mixing of different technologies; each part can be manufactured separately but then integrated, using this technology as the universal interface. For instance, gallium arsenide and silicon chips can be mixed in a single array, since the Proximity Communication is inherently tolerant of different voltage levels needed for different semiconductor materials. Current methods also force replacement of the entire circuit module when there is a defective part; with Proximity Communication, the user can just lift out the flawed chip and drop in a new one.

Initially developed by Sun for use in a scalable supercomputer, Proximity Communication technology can be applied to any product larger than a cell phone that uses circuit boards.

High speed chip-to-chip interconnect technology

Sun Microsystems, Inc.