IBM creates the first 2nm chip: breakthrough in the semiconductor industry

IBM amazes again and announces that it has created a 2nm chip , the first with this production process. This was announced by the company itself with an article on its blog, providing the first information on the new generation chip. Data processing could experience a major revolution.

IBM: the first 2nm chip

New decade, new limit of Moore 's law passed. IBM has announced the development of a 2nm chip using Extreme Ultra Violet ( EUV ) technology. This lithography technique engraves a silicon “wafer” using an extreme ultraviolet light beam with a wavelength of 13.5 nm. The technology has made it possible to engrave even smaller chips, allowing more and more chips to be inserted on the silicon disk, thus increasing processing power without increasing production costs.

In the case of the IBM innovation, we talk about cramming 50 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail (about 150mm 2 , according to IBM's indications). In the forecasts of the company, the new technology will bring an improvement in performance of up to 45% and up to 75% of energy saved compared to 7nm chips on the market. From the information released we know that the new 2-nanometer process will follow the 3-level GAA ( Gate-All-Around ) design , as reported by AnandTech . The cell has a height of 75nm and a width of 40nm, while the individual nanosheets are 5nm high and are separated from each other by the same length.

The structure of IBM's 2nm chips in the silicon wafer. Source: AnandTech
The structure of IBM's 2nm chips in the silicon wafer. Source: AnandTech

The development took place in IBM's research labs in Albany, New York. The complex, called Albany Nanotech Complex , is located within the city's polytechnic institute which has always been involved in nanotechnologies in close collaboration with companies such as Samsung and Tokyo Electron. The technology is currently not intended for devices and is still being used for testing purposes. On the silicon plate there are 333 million transistors per square millimeter , ready to be put under stress to accurately evaluate their performance.

The number “2” in the nanometer indication does not refer to its size, but to the node used to manufacture the chip. The number indicates the process used for the development of the chips, exactly as it happened for 10nm, 7nm and 5nm. It therefore has nothing to do with the size of the transistors or chips, but rather indicates the technological "generation" of the production process. A smaller number indicates an improvement in transistor density, a much more important measure than magnitude.

The benefits of new technology

Performance and consumption will be optimized, far exceeding the 5nm chip, also produced by IBM and used in the new Macs coming out , and the 3nm, not yet marketed. The benefits of the new chips will involve several areas and will improve processing in different aspects. In particular, IBM reports that:

  • cell phone battery life will be quadrupled . The devices can be recharged every 4 days (on average);
  • the ecological footprint of datacenters would decrease , as they will consume less energy;
  • it would significantly increase the speed of internet access , applications, and in general all the functionalities of laptops;
  • it would improve the reaction time in autonomous vehicles and would guarantee more speed for object detection, particularly useful in autonomous driving on the road.
A close-up of the silicon disk with the new chips. Source: inno3
A close-up of the silicon disk with the new chips. Source: inno3

The increase and improvement of device functionality requires that the hardware industry also keep up with the times, offering the means necessary to support the best that every smartphone, tablet or laptop can offer. The use of 5G is one of the factors that require more and more power to support them, which 7nm and 5nm are no longer able to offer. Increasing the number of transistors on a chip means making them faster, more efficient and safer. The new chips will be able to better support processing in the world of artificial intelligence and cloud computing , as well as open new avenues for hardware-enforced security and data encryption.

IBM article creates first 2nm chip: breakthrough in semiconductor industry comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .