IBM has announced that it has completed developing a thin 7-nanometer (7nm) chip which will be capable of holding 20 billion transistors. IBM has already unveiled the prototypes of next-generation chips, but it is not yet ready for mass production.
The 7nm “test”chip is the world first 7nm processor, and has been built by IBM in partnership with the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Samsung and GlobalFoundries. The development of the chip began in 2014 as a part of IBM’s $3 billion research program. The research of the program was carried out by SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
The prototypes include working components called transistors, allowing to act as normal computer chips. A major highlight is the size of the chip. IBM has produced the chip in two sizes: one at 10 nanometers and another at seven nanometers. Apart from the size, there are also performance improvements. The 10-nanometer chip is capable of improving power-performance ratio over the current 14-nanometer chip by 40-50 percent, while the seven-nanometer variant can improve over the 10-nanometer variant by 50 percent.
However, IBM does not plan to mass produce these chips anytime soon, but they are likely to influence chip makers like Intel to develop smaller chips. The production would also incur high costs as the company has already invested about $3 billion. IBM partners are also helping the company, to speed up the development using a cutting-edge lithography techniques.
The 7nm SiGe chips have been cleared for commercial use around 2017. IBM has announced that these chips will result in a “50 percent power/performance” improvement for next-generation systems due to the process improvements. IBM is known for manufacturing and marketing computer hardware and software. It also offers hosting, infrastructure and consulting services ranging from computers to nanotechnology.