May 6, 2021 - Technology

IBM says it has produced world's first 2-nanometer chips

2 nm technology as seen using transmission electron microscopy.
2 nm technology as seen using transmission electron microscopy. Photo: Courtesy of IBM Research.

IBM announced today it has reached a milestone in semiconductor manufacturing, producing chips with wiring just 2 nanometers thick.

Why it matters: Chips with thinner wiring typically consume less power and boost performance, while also taking up less space, reducing cost. The IBM process is still a couple years from being ready for full-scale manufacturing.

With wiring this thin, IBM says it can fit 50 billion transistors into a chip the size of a human fingernail. Or, put another way two nanometers is smaller than the width of a single strand of human DNA.

  • IBM says that, compared to today's leading-edge chips with 7-nanometer wiring, the 2-nanometer chips can improve performance by 45% using the same amount of power, or use 75% less energy while maintaining the same performance level.

The big picture: The advance also comes amid increased interest in boosting American chip manufacturing, which is seen as necessary for both national security and economic competitiveness.

  • A global chip shortage has further highlighted the benefits of the U.S. having its own domestic capacity.
  • Intel has recently recommitted to continuing in-house chipmaking and vowed to invest billions at chipmaking plants in Arizona, New Mexico and Israel.

Meanwhile: IBM CEO Arvind Krishna is also releasing a new policy agenda that includes support for the Endless Frontier Act, a bill that would change the approach of the National Science Foundation to focus on helping bridge the gap between academic research and commercial technology.

What's next: IBM says it will work with chipmakers who want to use its 2-nanometer technology in their future manufacturing processes.

Go deeper: Computer chips are still "Made in USA"

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