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Optical interconnects and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) present promising options for replacing the existing Cu-based global/semiglobal (optics and CNT) and local (CNT) wires. We quantify the performance of these novel interconnects and compare it with Cu/low-kappa wires for future high-performance integrated circuits. We find that for a local wire, a CNT bundle exhibits a smaller latency than Cu for a given geometry. In addition, by leveraging the superior electromigration properties of CNT and optimizing its geometry, the latency advantage can be further amplified. For semiglobal and global wires, we compare both optical and CNT options with Cu in terms of latency, energy efficiency/power dissipation, and bandwidth density. The above trends are studied with technology node. In addition, for a future technology node, we compare the relationship between bandwidth density, power density, and latency, thus alluding to the latency and power penalty to achieve a given bandwidth density. Optical wires have the lowest latency and the highest possible bandwidth density using wavelength division multiplexing, whereas a CNT bundle has a lower latency than Cu. The power density comparison is highly switching activity (SA) dependent, with high SA favoring optics. At low SA, optics is only power efficient compared to CNT for a bandwidth density beyond a critical value. Finally, we also quantify the impact of improvement in optical and CNT technology on the above comparisons. A small monolithically integrated detector and modulator capacitance for optical interconnects (~10 fF) yields a superior power density and latency even at relatively lower SA (~20%) but at high bandwidth density. At lower bandwidth density and SA lower than 20%, an improvement in mean free path and packing density of CNT can render it most energy efficient.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2007