IBM claims chip speed breakthrough

IBM has announced the development of the world’s first 2 nanometer (nm) nanosheet technology, which it said will enable the production of faster and more powerful computer chips.

One nm is a billionth of a meter; for comparison, a red blood cell is between 6,000-8,000nm across, while the Ebola virus is between 1,500nm long and 50nm wide.

IBM said the chip is projected to achieve 45 per cent higher performance, or 75 per cent lower energy use when matched for performance, than today's most advanced 7 nm node chipset.

Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (IC) of a semiconductor doubles about every two years, and this breakthrough would allow the law to continue working as it has done since 1971.

IBM said these advanced 2 nm chips could significantly improve smartphone battery life, meaning users would only have to charge their devices “every four days.”

The company also said the chips could reduce the carbon footprint of data centres, which are extremely energy intensive and account for one per cent of global energy use according to IBM.

Other reported benefits include speeding up laptop functions, including quicker processing in applications, improved language translation, and faster internet access.

The new chips could also contribute to faster object detection and reaction time in autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars according to IBM.

However, it could be years until the technology becomes commercially available; IBM announced the development of 7nm chips in 2015, 4 years before they became commercially available in 2019.

The news comes as the global chip shortage continues to disrupt the supply chains of even the most established companies, impacting Apple MacBook and iPad production in April.

"The IBM innovation reflected in this new 2 nm chip is essential to the entire semiconductor and IT industry," said Darío Gil, senior vice president 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."

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