A small reduction in voltage can cause a disproportionately large drop in power consumption.
IBM has manufactured the first prototypes of the chips in a laboratory and is now exploring ways to produce them in its factories. (NYSE:IBM) Research in collaboration with the GlobalFoundries, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930), and equipment suppliers produced the first 7nm (nanometer) node test chips with functioning transistors. Comparatively, a strand of DNA measures 2.5nm while a red blood cell has a 7,500nm diameter.
For all the talk of death of Moore’s Law – which suggests the number of transistors per square inch on chips should double every two years – IBM’s announcement suggests that it could be safe, at least until 2018.
After selling its semiconductor facilities to Global Foundries, IBM still manages to push forward its research in microchip manufacturing.
According to IBM shrinking chips had been a major challenge and had remained out of their reach for a long time due to an array of technological obstacles. Intel is working right now at the 22nm an 14nm process node while AMD has abandoned the 20nm from TSMC and will work with Global Foundries for the upcoming 14nm FinFET solution. The two companies have a 10-year agreement for GlobalFoundries to make chips for IBM’s servers, supercomputers and other semiconductor products.
[Related: Intel, IBM Squabble Over “Open Chip” Claims]. “But the developments could help IBM and its manufacturing partners pressure competitors like Intel Corp., while signaling that the industry can continue to overcome obstacles in boosting the speed, data storage capacity and power consumption of future chips”. Now, forget about it, because IBM announced it has created the fastest computer chips ever made.
The New York Times reports that the “wafer-thin” chips are made using silicon-germanium, a move away from pure silicon. To do so, light was shined through a specifically and intricately designed mask consisting of both opaque and transparent areas.
The new 7-nanometer chip has transistors that are half the size of current chips, which are 14 nanometers.
I don’t think that IBM, GloFo, and Samsung have magically found a way of making EUV commercially viable, but they are probably counting on the wrinkles being ironed out by 2017-2018-7nm’s expected arrival date. It’s nearly invisible to the naked eye. One hurdle that tech giants are facing with regards to the progress of miniaturization is it is continuously getting harder at the current rate.