IBM Makes A Breakthrough In Chip Technology

3 min readMay 17, 2021

The company has unveiled the world’s first 2 nanometer (nm) nanosheet technology. But why is it important?

Just In

Last Thursday, International Business Machines Corp (IBM) unveiled a 2 nanometer (nm) chip technology, which the company calls it as the world’s first 2 nm chip making technology. The technology might take several years to come to market, writes Reuters.

Breaking It Down

If you were confused by all the technobabble in the first paragraph, then let us help you out. Firstly, let’s talk about chips. An electronic chip comprises transistors, resistors and diodes which are all contained in one small plate. We have chips in our day-to-day objects — be it in a mobile phone, or a smart speaker or a laptop.

But we didn’t always have chips that could be fit into small phones. In the 2000s, desktop processors had 42 *nm processes. (*The nm denotes the size of the small transistors that the CPU is made up of and the distance between these transistors)
Then in 2018, Intel announced their 10 nm Sunny Cove chips and AMD announced their smaller 7 nm CPUs soon after. The same goes for mobile CPUs as well. In the past decade, we have come down to 7 nm from 14 nm.

The Big Deal About IBM’s Chip

Firstly, the size of this chip is just 2 nm, which means it is the size of a fingernail. In order to make chips faster than ever, we need to pack transistors closer and closer together and this 2 nm chip can fit up to 50 billion transistors. This means it will be faster than today’s leading edge 5 nm chips that are being used in premium smartphone modes like Apple’s iPhone 12 models.

This 2 nm chip has the potential to quadruple cell phone battery life, only requiring users to charge their devices every four days. It could also reduce the carbon footprint of data centres, which account for one percent of global energy use. When we change all their services to 2 nm-based processors, we could potentially lower that number considerably.

It could significantly speed up a laptop’s functions, ranging from quicker processing in applications, to helping in language translation more easily, to quicker internet access. Finally, it could contribute to faster object detection and reaction times in autonomous vehicles such as self-driving cars.

Zooming Out

IBM has said that this chip technology is opening a new frontier for semiconductors. As the world sees more breakthroughs on the technology front, we believe this chip will be a game changer in the industry. The chip will also be energy efficient, which will be helpful for the environment as well. We have to wait and see its practical uses in the future and also, keep an eye out for more innovations from other chip companies, who would compete with IBM by launching a chip that is even smaller than IBM’s.

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