An alliance led by IBM Research (www.ibm.com) says it has made working versions of ultradense computer chips, with roughly four times the capacity of today’s most powerful chips.
The industry’s first 7nm (nanometer) node test chips with functioning transistors was accomplished in partnership with Global Foundries and Samsung at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. The development 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, says Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research.
Microprocessors utilizing 22nm and 14nm technology power today’s servers, cloud data centers and mobile devices, and 10nm technology is well on the way to becoming a mature technology. The IBM Research-led alliance achieved close to 50% area scaling improvements over today’s most advanced technology, introduced SiGe channel material for transistor performance enhancement at 7nm node geometries, process innovations to stack them below 30nm pitch and full integration of EUV lithography at multiple levels, says Krishna.
These techniques and scaling could result in at least a 50% power/performance improvement for next generation mainframe and Power systems that will power the Big Data, cloud and mobile era, adds Dr. Michael Liehr, SUNY Poly executive vice president of Innovation and Technology and vice president of Research.