IBM’s new 2 nm chip technology claims more power with less energy

While new 5 nm microprocessors are slowly being introduced into electronic devices, IBM has announced a breakthrough with 2 nm chips. According to IBM, its new 2-nanometer (nm) microprocessor is the smallest and most powerful ever developed that will allow the 2 nm chip to fit up to 50 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail.

IBM‘s 2 nm chip has a density of 333 million transistors per square millimeter. By comparison, TSMC’s most advanced chip with a 5 nm process has about 173 million transistors, while Samsung’s 5 nm chip is 127 transistors per square millimeter. More transistors on a chip give manufacturers more options to deliver core innovations, to infuse core-level innovations to improve capabilities for leading-edge workloads like AI and cloud computing, as well as new pathways for hardware-enforced security and encryption.

Demand for increased chip performance and energy efficiency continues to rise, especially in the era of hybrid cloud, AI, and the Internet of Things. The company claims that the new 2-nm chips can reach 45% higher performance or 75% lower energy use than today’s most advanced 7 nm node chips – all things that can have concrete effects in data centers as well as in smartphones.

IBM's new 2 nm chip technology claims more power with less energy.
Row of 2 nm nanosheet devices. Credit: IBM

Representatives of IBM said the 2 nm chip helps cut the carbon footprint of data centers, which account for one percent of global energy use. Changing all of their servers to 2 nm-based processors could potentially reduce that number significantly. It could also speed up processing on electronic devices, “quadruple” mobile phone battery life – phones might only need to be charged every four days – and contributes to faster object detection and reaction time in autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars.

IBM’s new 2nm chip is largely just a proof of concept, and that processors build on the 2nm node are still likely years away.

Most integrated chip devices today use either 10 nm or 7 nm process technology. The two biggest chipmakers in the world, TSMC, and Samsung are producing chips with a 5 nm process, and Intel is still struggling to get its 7nm node out the door. TSMC also only plans to start early production of its 4nm chip process by the end of the year, with mass production in 2022.

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