IBM has managed to develop world’s first 7 nm chip

IBM 7 NanoMeter ChipIBM has announced a working 7 nanometer node test chip with functioning transistors, an industry first from an area where the doubling of power was common for a fair few years.

The chip was created in partnership with GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Samsung at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY Poly CNSE) and is the size of a finger-nail. It’s potential uses include powering smartphones to spacecraft using more than 20 billion tiny switches.

Digital technology is growing and making more demands on devices. Technology is growing as people’s imagination and creativity seems boundless, and the wants of users is constantly changing. IBM invested $3 billion over 5 years into chip R&D, and part of the 7nm chip was one of the fruits of this investment. New innovations were used, the biggest being Silicon Germanium (SiGe) channel transistors and Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography integration at multiple levels.

Currently, microprocessors use 22nm and 14nm technology, but services like cloud computing, Big Data systems, mobile products, cognitive computing and other upcoming technologies would require 7nm chips to power new bigger and faster services and features. An issue with making 7nm chips is in its intricate design; any vibrations in the machine can mean the chip is manufactured incorrectly. To stop this from being a problem, buildings are going to be designed that are vibration proof. The tininess of the chip’s size and the number of tiny switches is one of the reasons why this was so hard, and why EUV and SiGe were used over the usual methods.

The 7nm chip was created as a public-private partnership between IBM and New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo was called a trailblazer and thanked for his collaboration and leadership in this area but Dr Michael Liehr, SUNY Poly Executive Vice President of Innovation and Technology and Vice President of Research. IBM has been at the forefront of chip design, being the first to implement DRAM, the single-celled Dennard Scaling Laws, Silicon on Insulator, multi-core processors and much more.

It will be interesting to see what uses these chips are put to in devices. There has been a 50% reduction in chip size following each upgrade, which has followed the predicted roadmap. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has claimed it will have a pilot product of 7nm chips available, but hasn’t shown any evidence of this chip. It is unknown on when IBM will begin to manufacture this chip for commercial use.

Source: IBM

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