The importance of a computer chip

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CPU or Central Processing Unit

What’s in a computer chip? Actually there’s a lot to a computer chip, which is one of the most vital components of the CPU (Central Processing Unit). This thin and small little device, with its elaborate circuit, is what in fact runs all modern computerized system, whether a PC, a tablet, a mobile phone, or even consumer electronics such as music players and digital cameras. It works by processing the information and transmitting data signals, just as the brain does.

A chip is basically a semi-conducting material, usually silicon, with an integrated circuit embedded in it. A typical chip can contain millions of transistors or electronic components. Though not the best suited for this purpose, silicon is used in building computer chips because it’s an inexpensive and easily available material.

Depending on the size of the device, a computer chip (integrated circuit) may vary in size, though most chips are quite tiny by any standards. In the case of a desktop computer, this semi-conducting device usually comes fitted in the motherboard, while the chips used in mobile phones etc are smaller and more energy-efficient.

Types of computer chips

There are various types of computer chips, with their individual specifications guided by their function. The basic variety is a typical ordinary computer chip (CPU chip or microprocessor) which helps in ordinary computing tasks such as word processing and web browsing. Every computer system is made of a large number of such chips or microprocessors.

Another variety is the graphic processing unit or the video/graphics card, which may come integrated with the motherboard or as a separate device, depending on how extensive the graphics requirement in a system is. The graphics or video cards help display images on the monitor and are used mainly in graphic designing and gaming. Most of the high-end graphics cards come with an independent power supply and cooling system.

Memory chips, on the other hand, contain blank memory which can be used to store data as required. RAM, as it’s called, is actually a computer’s storage center. It facilitates temporary storage of data by the computer and enables faster functional use in certain tasks such as encoding and video editing. While RAM comes in-built in a computer system most new models have the provision for installation of an additional RAM chip to create more storage capacity.

New innovations in computer chips

Magnetic computer chips are an innovative device that works on the principle of data storage using magnetization principles. This relatively new computer chip has become quite common as a means of storing computer on hard disks over the last couple of years. Besides functioning as a storage medium for computer data, a magnetic computer chip also helps store audio and video signals.

A recent study has shown how magnetic computer chips can power computers by using much less energy than otherwise required. The laws of thermodynamics define the premise of the new study, conducted by engineers from the University of California, Berkeley. According to the study findings, the magnetic computer chips can power computers using energy that’s one-millionth the amount used per operation by transistors in modern computers. Integration of these chips to power computers is still, however, to be ascertained.

Another research has shown a new method of designing and creating computer chips that can process data 1,000 times faster than existing chips. The method allows the construction of a computer chip in three dimensions. These 3D chips are made of carbon nanotubes. They are designed to store data, memory and other processes in a common space.

Scientists have also developed a novel computer chip with self-destructive powers. The chip, made of tempered glass, can be destroyed through a remote in case of any threat to sensitive data stored on it. It works by attaching silicon computer wafers to a piece of tempered glass which shatters into miniscule pieces when exposed to heat in one spot.

Diversity of use

Though computer chips originated as a device for use in a computer, they are finding increasing application in other gadgets, especially consumer electronic durables. Computer chips are hence now being used not only in mobile phones but also in washing machines, central air-conditioners and HD television sets.

Even automobile manufacturers use computer chips for certain functions, such as tracking the engine condition and improving the safety of the vehicle. A computer chip can be used in the anti-lock brake system of a vehicle as also in providing important information, including warnings, to the drivers.

The modern financial and service industries are also beginning to rely heavily on computer chips. From credit and debit cards to ID cards, from tracking wild animals to healthcare data compilation, these thin devices are becoming increasingly popular across diverse applications. In all these gadgets, the computer chips act as sensors to perform some key functions.

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