Intel’s Breakthrough “Glass Substrate” Boost to Processor Performance

Intel has revealed more details today about its “breakthrough” glass substrate technology – a new way to manufacture processors that promises numerous benefits to todays standard organic substrate design that’s been around for decades.

A glass core substrate uses refined glass at the heart of the processor instead of a traditional PCB-like core with woven glass laminates. The company already has working prototypes, with the benefits of the new technology impacting nearly every part a processor.

Firstly, there’s a higher temperature tolerance, potentially allowing for higher frequencies thanks to 50% less pattern distortion. On the flip side of that, the internals will feature better power delivery while achieving high-speed signaling that should boost performance at low power levels. The news comes as the company looks set to launch its 14th Gen Raptor Lake refresh processors for desktop PCs next month.

The all-important transistor count will see benefits too – more of them will be able to be packed into smaller spaces allowing for larger chiplet complexes. The glass substrates have ultra-low flatness that improves the depth of focus for lithography – the process that essentially prints or constructs the processor core. This is hugely important as the transistor count directly impacts performance.

Intel’s senior vice president and general manager of Assembly and Test Development, Babak Sabi had this to say. “After a decade of research, Intel has achieved industry-leading glass substrates for advanced packaging. We look forward to delivering these cutting-edge technologies that will benefit our key players and foundry customers for decades to come.”

Similarly, the interconnects between components will see up to a tenfold increase in density, allowing for higher communication speed and more bandwidth between the different parts of a CPU core. The glass substrates will further boost these speeds thanks to the ability to seamlessly integrate optical interconnects.

It’s widely seen as a way to continue Moore’s Law – where the transistor count on processors doubles every two years. This has waned in recent years, with smaller manufacturing processes and higher transistor counts being harder to achieve, with manufacturers turning to multiple core processors and 3D stacking techniques to boost transistor counts.

The glass substrates could provide other avenues for boosting transistor counts and in turn performance and the technology can be applied to any processor, while also reducing power requirements. In addition to performance and power benefits, Intel also states that yields should increase too. Sadly, the technology isn’t likely to arrive till the latter half of this decade.


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