Chip giant Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) is turning to researchers at N.C. State to develop a new three-dimensional silicon chip structure that will enable computer brains to run with more energy efficiency.

Intel awarded NCSU a $1.5 grant for the project. The research team, which also includes a professor from Duke, is led by an NCSU professor who reported development of a new device that could “revolutionize computer memory.”

The scientists hope to have a prototype chip by 2014. The goal is to improve energy efficiency by 15-25 percent.

Chips would be stacked vertically and linked through electronic connections that pass through the chips, NCSU says. Current chips operate in two dimensions.

“Under this grant, we are building a 3D CPU chip stack and will be solving some of the problems currently facing the development of 3D CPUs,” said Dr. Paul Franzon, who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NCSU. He is lead researcher on the project.

The researchers must figure out how to use chips that are designed and produced in different places and to different specifications. They also need to deal with dissipation of heat that a 3D design would create.

NCSU also wants to enable manufacturers to test individual CPU components for functionality.

Other NCSU researchers are Drs. Eric Rotenberg and Rhett Davis along with Dr. Krishnendu Chakrabarty of Duke.

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