Powerful new IBM chip could quadruple phone battery life

7 May 2021

A silicon wafer holding IBM’s new chips. Image: IBM

According to the tech giant, the new breakthrough will allow up to 50bn transistors to fit on a chip the size of a fingernail.

While chip shortages continue to impact the world’s tech and auto industries, a new breakthrough could open a new frontier in semiconductors.

IBM has heralded a major milestone with the reveal of what it says is the world’s first chip with 2-nanometre nanosheet technology.

According to the company, the chip is projected to achieve 45pc higher performance, or 75pc lower energy use, than today’s most advanced 7-nanometre node chips, based on the projected industry standard scaling roadmap.

Potential benefits from the new chip could include quadrupling phone battery life, speeding up laptops and reducing the carbon footprint of data centres.

SVP and director of IBM Research, Darío Gil, said the innovation behind this new chip is essential to the entire semiconductor and IT industry.

“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,” he said.

IBM said the breakthrough will allow up to 50bn transistors to fit on a chip the size of a fingernail.

The ability to add more transistors means processor designers such as Intel and Samsung may have more options 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.

IBM’s semiconductor development efforts are based at its research lab in Albany, New York, where scientists work with public and private sector partners.

The company said this collaborative approach creates a strong innovation pipeline, helping to address the manufacturing demands of the chip industry, which is currently facing a worldwide shortage.

Efforts are being made to alleviate the shortage, with the EU laying out its ambition to manufacture one-fifth of the world’s semiconductors by 2030 and increased investment from industry players.

However, several leaders expect the shortage of semiconductors to continue into 2022, with Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger saying that it may take “a couple of years” to sort out.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic