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IBM sets $3B R&D funds to advance chip technology

Posted: 14 Jul 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:7nm  Big Data  cloud computing  nanosciences 

IBM will invest $3 billion in two broad research and early stage development programmes over the next five years to push the limits of chip technology needed to meet the emerging demands of cloud computing and Big Data systems.

The first research programme is aimed at so-called "7 nanometer and beyond" silicon technology that will address serious physical challenges that are threatening current semiconductor scaling techniques and will impede the ability to manufacture such chips. The second is focused on developing alternative technologies for post-silicon era chips using entirely different approaches, which IBM scientists and other experts say are required because of the physical limitations of silicon-based semiconductors.

Cloud and big data applications are placing new challenges on systems, just as the underlying chip technology is facing numerous significant physical scaling limits. Bandwidth to memory, high-speed communication, and device power consumption are becoming increasingly challenging and critical.

The teams will be composed of IBM research scientists and engineers from Albany and Yorktown, New York; Almaden, California; and Europe. In particular, IBM will be investing significantly in emerging areas of research that are already underway at IBM such as carbon nanoelectronics, silicon photonics, new memory technologies, and architectures that support quantum and cognitive computing.

 IBM graphene IC in wafer tester

IBM graphene IC in wafer tester

These teams will focus on providing orders of magnitude improvement in system level performance and energy efficient computing. In addition, IBM will continue to invest in the nanosciences and quantum computing—two areas of fundamental science where IBM has remained a pioneer for over three decades.

7 nanometer technology and beyond

IBM researchers and other semiconductor experts predict that while challenging, semiconductors show promise to scale from today's 22nm down to 14nm and then 10nm in the next several years. However, scaling to 7nm and perhaps below by the end of the decade will require significant investment and innovation in semiconductor architectures as well as invention of new tools and techniques for manufacturing.

"The question is not if we will introduce 7nm technology into manufacturing, but rather how, when, and at what cost?" said John Kelly, senior vice president, IBM Research. "IBM engineers and scientists, along with our partners, are well suited for this challenge and are already working on the materials science and device engineering required to meet the demands of the emerging system requirements for cloud, big data, and cognitive systems. This new investment will ensure that we produce the necessary innovations to meet these challenges."

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