All this power is made possible by transistors that are just 7 nanometers in size (7 billionths of a meter), created using a special silicon-germanium mixture instead of pure silicon. Today’s smallest transistors are 14nm in size, with 10nm versions on the way.With the size of the processing chips shrinking continuously and presently with parts of about 14nm width, people thought that we have reached the end of the Moore’s curve. So, technology pioneer IBM thought, let’s prove everyone wrong with our 7nm chip!
IBM has just announced that they had lifted up the record of the smallest chip by scaling down the size to 7nm in width. While the chip designers across the world were scoring for the 10nm scale and considered 7nm chips too difficult to fabricate, IBM has passed the technical problems and created a chip whose parts are about the same size as the red blood cell.
The company says it achieved the 7nm chip feat by using silicon-germanium channels in the chip’s elements. Till now only silicon had been used in chip designs. The new combination of semiconductors allows the chip to process faster. It means that the transistors inside switch at a faster rate than in previous chips and also use less energy.
For fabricating this 7nm chip, IBM used a narrow wavelength of UV light for the fine etching of the components and stacked the transistors closer without interference.
IBM has now started to work on manufacturing the new 7nm chips on a large scale. They have tested a number of designs to make the manufacturing of chips cost-effective. IBM plans to build a fabrication plant for $3 billion in New York state, with investors like Samsung and others. The chips are believed to come as the new processing brains for machines from 2018.
Intil now, the 14nm scale chips had 1.9 billion transistors whereas IBM’s 7nm chips will have about 20 billion. This development would drastically improve the speed of the processors.