5nm nanosheet transistors cut power by 75%

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The research will be presented at the the 2017 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits in Kyoto, Japan.

IBM has teamed up with semiconductor equipment suppliers and manufacturing bigwigs GlobalFoundries and Samsung to develop a new process for building silicon nanosheet transistors. The GAA nanosheet transistor architecture at 5nm would put 30bn transistors on a chip.

At the moment, the chip industry has the ability to produce 7nm processors, and 10nm chips are in common use today.

Meanwhile, IBM and its partners expect to begin commercializing their 7-nanometer chip technology in 2018.

While many expected that Moore's Law - the 1965 prediction that computing power would double every two years - had finally met its limit, IBM's new chip will pull it off.

IBM says these chips will be much faster than anything we have today, and that's a given. "This shows with the right investment one could continue to push semiconductor technology". Unlike the 7nm chip covering 20 billion transistors on a chip, the 5nm will let 30 billion transistors to be fitted on a single microprocessor. Now we come back two years later, with the first proof point of a new device structure. The news comes two years after the alliance announced the development of the world's first 7nm chips, which should enter production next year.

Rather than use current FinFET or "fin field-effect transistor" architecture, IBM has been exploring stacked nanosheet transistors, aided by a technique that allows it to adjust the chip's design for improved power and performance in ways that FinFET can't. As in earlier, planar designs, it is built on an SOI (silicon on insulator) substrate. "Geometrically, FinFETs can not scale anymore", Khare said.

For practical purposes, this is important because it helps enable a 40 percent performance improvement over current 10nm chip designs - but using the same amount of power.

The timing of the 5nm breakthrough couldn't be better, thanks to the huge number of new IoT devices in the transom.

Keep in mind that this initial work represents a feasibility demonstration only. IBM also says that power savings could lead to batteries in smartphones and other products that could last up to three times longer than today's devices. It was the flawless harmony for both consumer and producer, as computers twice as powerful as their predecessors would keep the consumer happy, while manufacturers enjoyed a built-in obsolescence. This makes them ideal for work with high-performance demands.

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