How Electromigration Can Kill Your CPU
We tend to think of solid-state devices like CPUs and SSDs as unchanging as if they’ll keep working forever. The truth is that CPUs are subject to wear and tear thanks to something called electromigration at the atomic level.
Electromigration: It’s Atomic!
A CPU works thanks to the flow of electricity through microscopic electronic components made from semiconductor materials. As electricity moves through the CPU’s circuits, heat is generated. If the current generates enough heat, this will actually move atoms of the metal from one part of the circuit to another part of the circuit further down the line.
If this happens long enough, it can cause that circuit to fail. Current CPUs aren’t all that fault-tolerant, so even one failed transistor out of the billions within the CPU could potentially render the CPU unusable if it happened to be a critical one with no redundancy. Electromigration is also happening across the CPU in parallel, so sooner or later, the prognosis may take a turn for the worse if uncontrolled electromigration happens.
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