IBM has claimed a chip breakthrough after it unveiled what it said is the world’s first 2 nanometer chip technology.

Big Blue in its announcement, boasted that the new chip milestone will deliver major performance and energy efficiency improvements.

IBM has researching chip technology for years now. Back in 2012 for example it predicted that it could in the future produce transistors at staggeringly small line width of five nanometers (5nm). It then revealed an example in 2017.

A close-up of a 2 nm wafer fabricated at IBM Research’s Albany facility

Chip breakthrough

But now nearly a decade after that 2012 prediction, IBM has revealed the world’s first chip with 2 nanometer (nm) nanosheet technology, developed at its research lab at the Albany Nanotech Complex.

IBM cited the ongoing demand for increased chip performance and energy efficiency, especially in the era of hybrid cloud, AI, and the Internet of Things.

“IBM’s new 2 nm chip technology helps advance the state-of-the-art in the semiconductor industry, addressing this growing demand,” it said “It is projected to achieve 45 percent higher performance, or 75 percent lower energy use, than today’s most advanced 7 nm node chips.

IBM said that 2 nm chips could provide potential benefits such as quadrupling mobile phone battery life, slashing the carbon footprint of data centers, which account for one percent of global energy use.

These new chips could also drastically speed up a laptop’s functions, or contribute to faster object detection and reaction time in autonomous vehicles such as self-driving cars.

“The IBM innovation reflected in this new 2 nm chip is essential to the entire semiconductor and IT industry,” said Darío Gil, SVP and Director of IBM Research.

“It is the product of IBM’s approach of taking on hard tech challenges and a demonstration of how breakthroughs can result from sustained investments and a collaborative R&D ecosystem approach,” said Gil.

50 billion transistors

IBM said that its 2 nm “industry first” design “demonstrates the advanced scaling of semiconductors using IBM’s nanosheet technology.

It will allow the 2 nm chip to fit up to 50 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail.

More transistors on a chip also means processor designers have more options to infuse core-level innovations to improve capabilities for leading edge workloads like AI and cloud computing, as well as new pathways for hardware-enforced security and encryption.

It comes after less than four years after IBM announced its milestone 5 nm design in 2017.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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