IBM Research Alliance Produces Ultra-Small Computer Chips

Researchers with an alliance led by IBM have produced an ultra-tiny computer chip that's 50 percent smaller than the smallest chips in use today. The seven-nanometer node test chips, with functioning transistors, could enable much higher performance in cloud computing, cognitive computing, mobile devices and other cutting-edge technologies.

The research team used a number of novel processes and techniques to produce the chips, including silicon germanium channel transistors and extreme ultraviolet lithography integration. The chips were developed at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute's Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering through IBM's partnership with GlobalFoundaries and Samsung.

According to researchers, the new chips are so small they could allow more than 20 billion transistors to be placed on a single, fingernail-size computer chip. Achieving a chip size of seven nanometers represents a milestone in computing innovation, they said.

$3B Program for Chip R&D

"For business and society to get the most out of tomorrow's computers and devices, scaling to seven nanometers and beyond is essential," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. "That's why IBM has remained committed to an aggressive basic research agenda that continually pushes the limits of semiconductor technology." IBM announced a $3 billion, five-year commitment to chip research and development in 2014.

Currently, 22-nanometer and 14-nanometer technologies are common in the microprocessors used in mobile devices, servers and cloud data centers, and 10-nanometer technology is maturing quickly. The seven-nanometer technology could help produce an improvement of at least 50 percent in power and performance in the systems used for mobile, cloud and big-data computing, according to IBM and its research partners.

Size of a Human Red Blood Cell

"Enabling the first seven-nanometer node transistors is a significant milestone for the entire semiconductor industry as we continue to push beyond the limitations of our current capabilities," said Michael Liehr,...

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