For more than 50 years, the technology industry benefited from the tail winds of Moore’s Law. The density of transistors in a silicon microprocessor doubled roughly every 2 years. Up until 10 years ago, that meant that microprocessors got twice as fast every 2 years. Unfortunately, at a certain point transistors were so tightly packed together that heat dissipation became a major problem, and microprocessor performance stalled even as transistor density kept scaling. For the last decade, the industry shifted to using lots of processors and building hyperscale cloud data centers that today consume 205 TWh of electricity, 43% of which is used for cooling, leading to massive inefficiencies and cost.
Corintis, a spin-out of EPFL in Switzerland, has developed technology that represents a breakthrough in semiconductor cooling. The founder’s paper in Nature showed that they could put 10x the amount of power through a chip using their cooling technology than that of the closest competitor technology. Corintis etches microfluidic channels on the back of a silicon chip roughly the size of a human hair and moves coolant through them. The small size increases the surface area of silicon in contact with the coolant and, consequently, the amount of heat it can dissipate. The cooling microchannels can be etched with typical semiconductor fabrication equipment and can be codesigned with the physical design of the chip to maximize cooling efficiency using software developed by Corintis.
We believe that cooling will become a mission-critical issue for chip designers as they continue to hit physical limits. We are excited to be backing the Corintis team on their mission to lead a new breakthrough in semiconductor cooling, potentially extending Moore’s law and greatly reducing the energy consumption in the cooling of electronics.