IBM led team debuts 7nm test chips

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IBM Research, in association with Globalfoundries and Samsung at SUNY Polytechnic Institute's Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (SUNY Poly CNSE), has produced the first 7nm test chips with functioning transistors. The achievement is a product of IBM's $3billion five-year investment in R&D, announced in 2014.

With progress to smaller dimensions becoming increasingly difficult, the partners said they had to bypass conventional semiconductor manufacturing approaches to achieve their milestone. Included in the work are a number of 'industry firsts', including the use of silicon germanium (SiGe) channels and EUV lithography.

"For business and society to get the most out of tomorrow's computers and devices, scaling to 7nm and beyond is essential," said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research. "That's why IBM has remained committed to an aggressive basic research agenda that continually pushes the limits of semiconductor technology. Working with our partners, this milestone builds on decades of research that has set the pace for the microelectronics industry, and positions us to advance our leadership for years to come."

According to the partners, the 7nm chip achieves 'close to 50% area scaling improvements' compared to today's most advanced technology. This is expected to bring a power/performance improvement of at least 50% for next generation computing systems.