IBM’s Tiny Chips for Cloud Computing and Big Data Systems
An alliance led by IBM Research announced Thursday that it has produced the semiconductor industry’s first 7nm (nanometer) node test chips with functioning transistors.
The breakthrough, accomplished in partnership with Globalfoundries and Samsung at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY Poly CNSE), could result in the ability to place more than 20 billion tiny switches — transistors — on the fingernail-sized chips that power everything from smartphones to spacecraft.
To achieve the higher performance, lower power and scaling benefits promised by 7nm technology, researchers had to bypass conventional semiconductor manufacturing approaches.
Among the novel processes and techniques pioneered by the IBM Research alliance were a number of industry-first innovations, most notably Silicon Germanium (SiGe) channel transistors and Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography integration at multiple levels.
Industry experts consider 7nm technology crucial to meeting the anticipated demands of future cloud computing and Big Data systems, cognitive computing, mobile products and other emerging technologies.
Part of IBM’s $3 billion, five-year investment in chip R&D (announced in 2014), this accomplishment was made possible through a public-private partnership with New York State and joint development alliance with Globalfoundries, Samsung and equipment suppliers. The team is based at SUNY Poly’s NanoTech Complex in Albany.