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New chip milestone to propel major leaps forward in performance and energy efficiency

IBM unveiled a breakthrough in semiconductor design and process with the development of the world’s first chip announced with 2 nanometers (nm) nanosheet technology.

Semiconductors play critical roles in everything from computing to appliances, to communication devices, transportation systems, and critical infrastructure.

Demand for increased chip performance and energy efficiency continues to rise, especially in the era of hybrid cloud, AI, and the Internet of Things.

Semiconductor innovation

This latest breakthrough builds on decades of IBM leadership in semiconductor innovation. The company’s semiconductor development efforts are based at its research lab located at the Albany Nanotech Complex in Albany, New York, where IBM scientists work in close collaboration with public and private sector partners to push the boundaries of logic scaling and semiconductor capabilities.

IBM’s new 2 nm chip technology helps advance the state-of-the-art in the semiconductor industry, addressing this growing demand. It is projected to achieve 45 percent higher performance, or 75 percent lower energy use, than today’s most advanced 7 nm node chips.

The potential benefits of these advanced 2 nm chips could include quadrupling cell phone battery life, Slashing the carbon footprint of data centers, reduce data center numbers, drastically speeding up a laptop’s functions, and faster object detection and reaction time in autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars.

Tech challenges

IBM Research Senior Vice President and Director Darío Gil said the IBM innovation reflected in this new 2 nm chip is essential to the entire semiconductor and IT industry.

“It is the product of IBM’s approach of taking on hard tech challenges and a demonstration of how breakthroughs can result from sustained investments and a collaborative R&D ecosystem approach,” said Darío Gil.

IBM Research Albany a world-leading ecosystem for semiconductor research and creates a strong innovation pipeline, helping to address manufacturing demands and accelerate the growth of the global chip industry.

Single cell DRM

IBM’s legacy of semiconductor breakthroughs also includes the first implementation of 7 nm and 5 nm process technologies, single-cell DRAM, the Dennard Scaling Laws, chemically amplified photoresists, copper interconnect wiring, Silicon on Insulator technology, multi-core microprocessors, High-k gate dielectrics, embedded DRAM, and 3D chip stacking. IBM’s first commercialized offering including IBM Research 7 nm advancements will debut later this year in IBM POWER10-based IBM Power Systems.

Increasing the number of transistors per chip can make them smaller, faster, more reliable, and more efficient. The 2 nm design demonstrates the advanced scaling of semiconductors using IBM’s nanosheet technology. Its architecture is an industry first. Developed less than four years after IBM announced its milestone 5 nm design, this latest breakthrough will allow the 2 nm chip to fit up to 50 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail.

More transistors on a chip also mean processor designers have more options to infuse core-level innovations to improve capabilities for leading-edge workloads like AI and cloud computing, as well as new pathways for hardware-enforced security and encryption. IBM is already implementing other innovative core-level enhancements in the latest generations of IBM hardware, like IBM POWER10 and IBM z15.

Hybrid cloud

Although still several years away from the manufacturing of 2 nm node devices, IBM Research’s innovations feed directly into IBM’s commercial product roadmap. The company’s first commercialized 7 nm processor, based on IBM Research’s 2015 breakthrough, will debut later this year in IBM POWER10 processor. Looking ahead, IBM leadership in semiconductor innovation could allow cloud providers or other large-scale data center operators to reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint by using fewer servers to accomplish the same amount of work.

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider, helping clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain a competitive edge in their industries.

Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently, and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity, and service.

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