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Engineers Build "Self-Healing" Chips Capable of Repairing Themselves 68

Posted by samzenpus
from the electronics-heal-thyself dept.
hypnosec writes "A Team of researchers and engineers at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has developed 'self-healing' chips (PDF) that can heal themselves within a few microseconds. The team tested their work by damaging amplifiers in several places using high-powered lasers. In less than a second the chips were able to develop work-arounds thereby healing themselves."
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Engineers Build "Self-Healing" Chips Capable of Repairing Themselves

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  • by Looker_Device (2857489) * on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:52AM (#43137043)

    Not to be too pedantic about it, but I'm very touchy about biological metaphors being inappropriately applied to technology (lets we forget how amazingly complex evolved biology really is compared to even our most advanced tech). FTFA, it sounds like they don't really "heal," they just reroute around the damage. But the damage is still there. It's more analogous to network packets being rerouted around a bad server than a biological entity actually replacing damaged cells.

    • by sensationull (889870) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:00AM (#43137141)

      Thank you, that was what I was about to say, massively redundant, cool but it does not actually repair itself back to the way it was before, as it 'heals' it uses up that ability.

      • by drkim (1559875)

        Thank you, that was what I was about to say, massively redundant, cool but it does not actually repair itself back to the way it was before, as it 'heals' it uses up that ability.

        Not even new.

        They have been building self-testing, redundant chips for years.

        Here's a paper from 1982:
        http://www.computer.org/csdl/trans/tc/1982/07/01676058.pdf [computer.org]
        1988:
        http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?reload=true&arnumber=3187 [ieee.org]

        etc...

      • by ikaruga (2725453)
        +1 if I had mod points. That was exactly my suspicion when I saw this news at other tech blogs. Reading the article a couple of days ago when I heard the news on Engadget, I was incredibly disappointed. The word "regeneration" is being completely misused here, unless that is it's meaning in Electronics(Just like "Teleportation" through quantum entanglement is quite different from Teleportation as we usually imagine). However as a System/Medical engineer that deals a lot of electronics I've never heard of su
    • by N!k0N (883435)
      Evolution's had a damn long time to get the "rebuilding cells" part down -- we're just at the "stop the bleeding" phase with the chips. Once they can rebuild their structure, we're in for trouble...
    • by Threni (635302)

      > they don't really "heal," they just reroute around the damage

      But it says it in the title! Twice! They are 'self healing' AND they repair themselves! It leaves no doubt!

    • Does that make the broken-and-disconnected circuits scar tissue?

    • Not to be too pedantic about it, but I'm very touchy about biological metaphors being inappropriately applied to technology (lets we forget how amazingly complex evolved biology really is compared to even our most advanced tech). FTFA, it sounds like they don't really "heal," they just reroute around the damage.

      Some of the biological processes also route around the damage, the brain being a good example.

    • Not to be too pedantic about it, but I'm very touchy about biological metaphors being inappropriately applied to technology (lets we forget how amazingly complex evolved biology really is compared to even our most advanced tech). FTFA, it sounds like they don't really "heal," they just reroute around the damage. But the damage is still there. It's more analogous to network packets being rerouted around a bad server than a biological entity actually replacing damaged cells.

      The brain is known to reroute signals in order to restore lost functionality in stroke victims, so (without having read TFA) I would group this under healing.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh never mind, it's just getting too easy nowadays.

    • How ironic that despite you and I noticing how redundant that meme is getting on here, the "First Post" (below yours right now) quotes what you were _going_ to say, precisely!

  • "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team."
  • That BS again.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907) on Monday March 11, 2013 @09:03AM (#43137181)

    They are NOT "self-healing". That would mean they can get back to their original state after damage. What these things have is a high level of redundancy. But whenever they suffer damage, the redundancy gets less and eventually they fail. Calling this "self-healing" is a direct lie.

    • by ledow (319597)

      Agreed.

      But still has interesting implications for, say, radiation-hardened hardware like space-travel. Of course, it's nothing they don't already have in terms of the overall process, but having it on-chip is yet-another factor that has to experience corruption before you need to replace the hardware.

      Another nice step, but nothing miraculous.

    • by illestov (945762)
      I personally don't see a problem with calling a chip "self healing" if its capable of regaining its functionality through some sort of automated process. If you guys are going to be picky, then even in nature nothing is REALLY self healing. When a cell in your body gets damaged, it is not "repaired" but is replaced by another cell that performs the same function. When you cut your skin, you replace damaged cells with new ones and form a scar.
      • by gweihir (88907)

        The thing is that "healing" grows something new to replace what was damaged. This thing does not do that and all the spares have the same risk of getting damaged.

        • by illestov (945762)
          I would have to disagree with your definition..

          heal (hl)

          v. healed, healing, heals v.tr. 1. To restore to health or soundness; cure. 2. To set right; repair: healed the rift between us. 3. To restore (a person) to spiritual wholeness.

          there is nothing in the definition that implies the process by which it heals. I think you are missing a much more interesting implication of that article which is that an IC that can diagnose itself and then switch to an appropriate "spare" or re-route itself is prett

          • by gweihir (88907)

            However the definition implies restoration/repair of the defect. The thing from the OP just plugs in a spare and leaves the original broken. The only difference to component replacement is that the spare is already on the chip, and hence there is a hard limit on how often it can be done.

            I also do not overlook the approach: It is pretty old, and there are reports of it from time to time. This is, at best, incremental research. Things like master-checker pairs of CPUs with some fail-over mechanism are well-kn

            • by illestov (945762)
              haha ok you win. you sure know how to take excitement out of progress ;-)
              • by gweihir (88907)

                Well, excitement is nice when there actually is something to get excited about. It it is just marketing BS blowing things out of proportion, I like to try to be the voice of reason. Sorry about that ;-)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We all know what this will lead to....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQnwmEkEito

  • After reading CalTech and high-powered lasers, I could only think of a ragtag team of students like Mitch Taylor, Chris Knight, and Lazlo Hollyfeld implanting a two-way transceiver into Kent's dental work in order to thwart Hathaway's plans to embezzle funds from the DoD.

  • My recollection is that back in the 1980's, chip manufacturers could not figure out how to make a 1-megabit RAM chip (that's 128KB, or a millionth the RAM of a server today) with no bad bits, so they added extra rows and the first time (?) it was utilized it would figure out which rows worked. For some reason, I recall that AT&T got a patent on it.
  • Nimrod !!!
  • Maybe watching the Terminator and Matrix movies might stop this kind of scientific "discovery".

  • Thank god. I was worried we'd never get around to building Skynet.
  • My chips are always being damaged in specific places using high-powered lasers, and not the whole thing going up in a puff of smoke and small explosion if there is enough current.

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