June 22, 2021

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The first slide is with a 2 nm technology

10x more transistors per chip than trees The first slide is with a 2 nm technology

It’s a technical milestone: the world’s first 2nm chip. It doesn’t come from TSMC, but from IBM.

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Blurred in the photo, but a sensation: a 2nm chip from IBM. Here is the cross section of the individual transistors in a substrate under an electron microscope. For comparison: two nanometers lower than a strand of human DNA.

(Image: IBM)

Chips are part of our everyday life today and can be found in nearly every device we use – from cell phones, smart home devices and cars to servers in data centers. And also in devices that we rarely have access to, like Mars and satellite robots. Demand for faster, more energy-efficient devices powered by chips is increasing every day, especially in times of artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things and the cloud.

A 2nm IBM slide fits the image. With what is currently the smallest process node size in the world, according to the company, this should achieve 45 percent higher performance – while consuming 75 percent less power than the 7-nanometer chips available today.

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To illustrate: a nanometer is a billionth of a meter. Using 2nm technology, 50 billion transistors can be placed on a chip the size of a fingernail. On a 300mm chip there are nearly ten times more nanometer transistors than trees – worldwide.

The effects should be felt by everyone

Expectations are high. “This chip design will be the basis for future systems from both IBM and other manufacturers,” says IBM. The causes are varied and serious. This technology can

  • CO2Reducing the impact of data centers whose energy consumption continues to rise. If every data center switched its servers into 2nm processors, it could provide enough power to power 43 million homes, according to IBM.
  • Significantly accelerate cell phones: 2nm technology can provide faster internet access, faster applications, better support for real-time subtitles, and even a faster 5G or 6G connection.
  • Quadruples the battery life of cell phones.
  • This also means significant acceleration of laptop functionality, from faster application processing to easier support for language translation and faster Internet access.
  • For example, faster object recognition and reaction times in autonomous vehicles.
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2nm technology was developed by IBM Research at its research center in Albany, New York State, one of the most advanced semiconductor research facilities in the world. Here, IBM has built a public-private innovation network, which includes members like Samsung Electronics, New York State and, more recently, Intel, to push the boundaries of so-called logical expansion and research and development in the areas of semiconductor design and prototyping to boost packaging and manufacturing.

Innovation with tradition

More transistors on the chip also mean that processor designers have more opportunities to innovate at the fundamental level to improve capabilities for ground-breaking workloads such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing, as well as new approaches to security and hardware-based encryption.

Chip development is nothing new in IBM’s history. In 2015, Big Blue developed the first 7nm test chip. In 2017, the team developed a 5-nanometer test chip based on what is known as nanoparticle technology. There are also developments in single-cell DRAM, Dennard’s laws of scaling, chemically enhanced photoresists, copper conduction wires, silicon-on-insulator technology, multi-core microprocessors, high k gate insulators, embedded DRAM, and stacking 3D slices.

According to IBM, these innovations are flowing directly into the hardware roadmap. The first 7nm processor will appear this year in the IBM Power 10 system.

The first post on our partner portal Data center inside.

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