IBM develops manufacturing process for 5 nm chip

Wafer of chips with 5nm silicon nanosheet transistors

Even though there is only so much physical room inside a circuit, this "law" has been on target all along. More details about its 5nm process will be revealed at the 2017 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits conference in Kyoto, Japan, which is happening this week.

IBM and its chip manufacturing partner companies Samsung and Globalfoundries still believe in Moore's Law, and have just announced a new procedure to make silicon nanosheet transistors that will enable 5-nanometre chips. The chip is notable in that it is smaller than previous versions yet more dense and powerful, therefore offering higher performance. GAAFETs, which are the next evolution of tri-gate finFETs, are used in chips of designs and sizes below 22nm. But industry watchers have anxious lately that technology was pushing the limits of Moore's Law - a prediction made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 that computing power would double every two years as chips got more densely packed. "The new transistors will enable [the chip industry] to continue scaling and generate the economic value Moore's Law has predicted".

USA technology giant, IBM made a groundbreaking announcement today.

Scientists at IBM Research and its partner SUNY Polytechnic Institute (Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering's NanoTech Complex) have been working on nanosheet semiconductors in the lab for more than 10 years. Now we come back two years later, with the first proof point of a new device structure. Which is how we got into nanometer level manufacturing.

The approach they used is called Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography. "The technology is very, very close", said Khare, "and the cycle continues with another breakthrough".

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The team at IBM hopes to see the impressive new 5nm chip helping their own cognitive computing efforts, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other "data intensive" tasks.

For practical purposes, this is important because it helps enable a 40 percent performance improvement over current 10nm chip designs - but using the same amount of power.

Keep in mind that this initial work represents a feasibility demonstration only. However, it's also painting a rosy picture for the future of mobile devices - it imagines phones having "two to three times" more battery life than current devices.

What this will mean for the creation of new jobs, both domestic and foreign, is incalculable at this early stage, but it undoubtedly will be good.

According to GlobalFoundries' CTO Gary Patton, there are plans for commercializing their 7nm manufacturing process by 2018 while the agenda for the 5nm chips using nanosheets is still unclear. This makes them flawless for work with high-performance demands.

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