IBM says future PC chips will be in 3D!

IBM has announced a way of making processors ever more heat and energy efficient - by stacking components on top of one another in a 3D-style arrangement. The "breakthrough chip-stacking technology paves the way for three-dimensional chips," says the company. The new tech will extend Moore's Law "beyond its expected limits".

Moore, the founder of Intel , was responsible for the peerless Moore's Law , which states that processing power doubles every two years. Intel said in January that its move into 45nm processor technology would uphold the law.

The technology - called "through-silicon vias" - enables components to be closer together, increasing power efficiency and boosting the speeds at which data can be transferred around the processor.

Traditionally, elements of processors sit alongside each other on an expensive silicon wafer. This process, says IBM, produces a "compact sandwich of components that dramatically reduces the size of the overall chip package."

"This breakthrough is a result of more than a decade of pioneering research at IBM," said Lisa Su, top dog at IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center. "This allows us to move 3-D chips from the 'lab to the fab' across a range of applications."

The "through silicon vias" name stems from the way the new method eliminates the metal wiring that connects different processor elements together. Instead, the processor uses vertical connections etched into the wafer, which are then filled with metal so that information can be transferred.

The technique shortens the distance that information on a chip needs to travel by 1,000 times, and allows for the addition of up to 100 times more channels, or pathways, for information to flow.

IBM aims to start production of the chips next year and sees them being of most use for power processing applications initially.