IBM Research in collaboration with the GlobalFoundries, Samsung, and equipment suppliers produced the first 7nm (nanometer) node test chips with functioning transistors. The alliance worked together at SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale and Engineering.

IBM Research Alliance Produces First 7nm Higher-Capacity Chips

According to IBM Research, the breakthrough could potentially allow the semiconductor industry to put more than 20 billion tiny switches or transistors on the newly developed 7nm node test chips to power everything from smartphones to spacecraft.

The development of the 7nm node test chips was part of the $3 billion, five-year investment of IBM in Chip R&D. The accomplishment of the IBM Research Alliance was made possible through the support of the New York State.

IBM Research-led alliance uses novel processes & techniques

The IBM Research-led alliance bypassed the conventional manufacturing approaches used by the semiconductor industry to achieve the higher performance, lower power and scaling benefits promised by the 7nm technology.

The IBM Research-led alliance pioneered novel processes and techniques such as the Silicon Germanium (SiGe) channel transistors and Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography integration at multiple levels. These techniques are industry-first innovations.

Scaling to 7nm technology is essential

Industry experts believed that the 7nm technology is critical to meeting the anticipated future demands of Big Data systems, cloud computing, cognitive computing, mobile products and other emerging technologies.

Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, said, “For business and society to get the most out of tomorrow’s computers and devices, scaling to 7nm and beyond is essential.”

“Working with our partners, this milestone builds on decades of research that has set the pace for the microelectronics industry, and positions us to advance our leadership for years to come,” added Krishna.

Cloud data centers, mobile devices and servers are currently powered by microprocessors using 22nm and 14nm technology. The 10nm technology is on its way toward becoming a mature technology, according to IBM Research.

The IBM Research-led alliance was able to achieve almost 50% area scaling improvements over the most advanced technology today.

Dr. Michael Liehr, SUNY Poly Executive Vice President of Innovation and Technology and Vice President of Research said, “Enabling the first 7nm node transistors is a significant milestone for the entire semiconductor industry as we continue to push beyond the limitations of our current capabilities.”