Even integrated circuits have bandwidth problems these days it seems, but Silicon Valley start-up Alpine Microsystems Inc has invented a ‘complex integrated circuit’ technology that connects two or more chips and eliminates the chip-to chip interconnect bottleneck. Founded in January 1996, Campbell, California-based Alpine has applied for several patents for its technology, which was invented by the company’s president, Sam Brown, vice president engineering, George Avery and principle product architect Andy Wiggin. The Complex integrated circuit technology uses a series of silicon-based substrates embedded in a standard surface-mount integrated circuit package. The company says this enables it to offer the same inter-chip speed and input/output bandwidth as a single chip system, but at a lower cost and with higher levels of integration. Alpine describes the Complex IC as ‘devices made up of two or more standard or custom integrated circuits interconnected together using a semiconductor metalization process to create a single integrated circuit’ The benefits of the Complex ICs are that they enable very fast microprocessors to be integrated with memory and other chips in one system package, but they still use existing chip design, fabrication, assembly and testing infrastructure. This, Alpine says, significantly reduces the costs. It also reckons the Complex circuits will deliver fairly dramatic benefits for applications such as high-speed graphics sub-systems with integrated frame buffers, CPUs with integrated level 2 cache memory, and high performance mixed technology wireless communications packages. These include sub 100 picosecond chip- to-chip interconnect delays, gigahertz level edge rates and increased memory bandwidth. Alpine also claims the complex IC offers low power consumption and very good thermal management. The company says several integrated circuit manufacturers are currently completing prototype designs, including ATI Technologies Inc, Atmel Corp and Trident Microsystems Inc, and it reckons the first products out there will be for high performance graphics subsystems. There is also an alliance of major memory manufacturers, including Fujitsu Ltd and Samsung Electronics Co, which is facilitating die-level availability of advanced memory technologies for integration into the Complex ICs. Alpine has, to date, been privately financed by its founders, including Brown who was formerly NEC Corp’s ASIC division director, its employees and individual local investors.