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Can Beyond-CMOS Devices Illuminate Dark Silicon?


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For more than 50 years, Moore's Law has been the fundamental economic driver of the microprocessor industry,17 seeing the number of (CMOS) on-chip transistors doubles with each technology generation. As a corollary, microprocessor performance also doubles as a result of transistor scaling from Dennard scaling6 and Pollack's Rule.4 Unfortunately, performance-scaling trends have abated due to increased sub-threshold leakage current and decreased supply-voltage scaling.3 Consequently, computer architects have adopted multi-core architectures in an attempt to maintain processor performance scaling via parallel processing.4

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While multi-core processors have succeeded in delivering modest (approximately linear) performance gains, projections indicate they will encounter a power wall as transistors continue to scale.7 Specifically, Esmaeilzadeh et al.7 suggested that as the number of transistors continues to double, power densities will approach the physical and economical limits of a chip's thermal design power (TDP), necessitating the selective activation of on-chip devices. This phenomenon is colloquially referred to as "dark silicon"7 and has inspired a range of solutions,27 including "beyond-CMOS" devices,1 "dim silicon" cores,8 customized accelerators,28 and even combinations of all such approaches, to produce heterogeneous architectures.26 While each approach offers novel ideas to overcome the "dark silicon" phenomenon, beyond-CMOS devices are the fundamental but most unpredictable choice for overcoming the limitations of CMOS devices.27


 

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