Machine Design
IBM39s new chip skips the next generation of microprocessors

IBM's new chip skips the next generation of microprocessors.

Microprocessor Skips a Generation Down to 7 nm

Moore’s law may finally be in throes of slowing. As is well known, the law states that the amount of processors that can fit into a single microprocessor doubles approximately every two years. In recent years, though, it has been a challenge for semiconductor companies to keep up with the two-year trend. The concern is that companies simply may no longer be able to keep up with our ever-increasing demand for data storage and high speed technology.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich states, "The last two technology transitions have signaled that our cadence today is closer to 2.5 years than two." Intel has recently been working on the next generation of 10-nm-node microprocessors.

Seeking ways to reverse that trend, IBM gave a $3-billion grant to a team of developers at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Albany, N.Y.,  last year to research new manufacturing methods and semiconducting materials for creating smaller, more powerful microprocessors. Using silicon germanium as the semiconductor, the team was able to create a microprocessor that measured a mere 7 nm, thus bypassing the 10-nm generation altogether. It’s half the size of Intel’s current chip, and the team claims that it will generate double the power.

The SUNY team also applied lithography technology called “extreme ultraviolet” to manufacture the chip. They expect that it will let them print chips on a large scale for future commercial distribution. The team is still conducting research to decrease semiconductor-chip size even further.  

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