IBM Research announced the most powerful chip ever created – the world’s first fully-functional 7 nanometer chip, with roughly four times the capacity of today’s most powerful chips.
Relatively, competitors like Intel have been struggling for years to shrink their consumer chips down below 14-nanometers. The world’s largest semiconductor chip maker is making Herculean efforts to commercialize 10-nanometer chips.
The research advance was made using silicon-germanium instead of pure silicon in major regions of the molecular-size switches. Silicon-germanium makes both faster transistor switching and lower power requirements attainable. The new technology uses extreme ultraviolet light, or EUV to engrave the chips at a resolution that accosts the diameter of individual atoms. This technique requires “specialized stabilized buildings” to make sure the equipment does not vibrate during the process. The waif-like size of these transistors suggest that further advances will demand use of new materials and novel manufacturing techniques.
IBM’s Most Powerful Chip
Development of 7-nm chips will allow the semiconductor industry to continue the trend toward increasing miniaturization and performance of computing chips, known as Moore’s Law.
“The number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubles every year,” derived from a speech given by Gordon Moore, later founder of Intel, in 1965.
In 2014, IBM cast off its semiconductor manufacturing business, paying $1.5 billion to unload it to GlobalFoundaries. Today, it licenses the technology it develops to be manufactured by GlobalFoundaries, owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, to builds chips for Qualcomm, Broadcom and AMD. The recent development is a part of company’s efforts to manufacture the most powerful and advanced computer chips, with IBM investing more than $3 billion over the next five years in a tryst with New York State, Samsung, and GLobalFoundaries. These companies for more than a decade have relied on joint developments under the alliance called Global Platform.
IBM’s new chip, is still in a R&D phase, and will continue to shrink at least through 2018. The company hasn’t divulged any further details for when it would enter manufacturing phase with the new size. Although, IBM revealed that it would now work towards building fingernail-sized microprocessors with more than 20 billion transistors.
This year, Taiwan Semiconductor, revealed plans to begin pilot product of seven-nanometer chips in 2017. Unlike IBM, the Taiwan based company has not unveiled working chips to meet that goal.