IBM said that development of 7nm chips has proved a real challenge for the semiconductor industry.
At the moment we don’t know if IBM’s 30nm pitch at 7nm will be smaller than what Intel debuts at that node. A strand of human DNA, in comparison is 2.5 nanometers.
According to IBM, the prototype processors it’s built mark the beginning of a new era of smaller semiconductors that will ensure the continuation of Moore’s Law, and help to power more advanced analytical workloads. IBM Research’s mega-fund flow into next-generation chipset technology looks to be already reaping off. “The implications of our achievement are huge for the computer industry”, Mukesh Khare, vice president of IBM Semiconductor Technology Research, wrote in a post on the company blog. As transistors get smaller, you can pack more of them onto a single chip, and this greatly improves the chips’ performance. Moore’s Law, named after silicon chip pioneer Gordon Moore, suggests that computer power should double every couple of years, as engineers come up with more imaginative methods to shrink components.
The move was made official in IBM’s quarterly earnings figures released in October last year, and will see IBM ridding itself of a business unit that has become more trouble than it’s worth.
The microchips use a mix of silicon and the chemical element germanium instead of the usual silicon-only. It also had to develop new manufacturing processes to achieve working transistors.
Eventually, as the technology matures and goes into standard production in future years, chips at this level of circuitry could put as many as 20 billion transistors, or switches, on a chip the size of a fingernail.
Part of IBM’s billion, five-year investment in chip R&D (announced in 2014), this accomplishment was made possible through a unique public-private partnership with New York State and joint development alliance with GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung, and equipment suppliers. It told the New York Times that it has found a way of stacking transistors closer together without them interfering with each other by using very narrow wavelengths of ultraviolet light. Thursday’s announcement bodes extremely well for the semiconductor industry, which will be able to harness IBM’s new technology for further innovation down the line.