Every decade tests the limits of Moore’s Law, and this decade is no exception. The complexities of multi-patterning techniques developed on previous technology nodes can now be applied with the finer resolution that EUV provides, thanks to the arrival of Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV) technology. This, along with other more technical advancements, may result in a reduction in transistor size, paving the way for the future of semiconductors. To that end, IBM announced today that it has developed the world’s first 2-nanometer node chip.
According to IBM, the architecture can help processor makers deliver a 45 percent performance boost while using the same amount of power as current 7nm-based chips, or the same level of performance while using 75 percent less energy. Many 2nm-based processors will most likely deliver something in the middle, a balance of improved performance and power efficiency.
Mobile devices equipped with 2nm processors could have up to four times the battery life of those equipped with 7nm chipsets. According to IBM, you may only need to charge those handsets every four days. According to IBM, such processors would increase the speed of laptops, while autonomous vehicles would detect and react to objects more quickly. According to the company, the technology will benefit data center power efficiency, space exploration, artificial intelligence, 5G and 6G networks, and quantum computing.
IBM appears to have made the 2nm breakthrough ahead of its competitors. Last fall, Apple’s M1 and A14 processors, along with Huawei’s Kirin 9000, were the first to use TSMC’s 5nm technology node process. Other manufacturers, such as AMD and Qualcomm, are currently using TSMC’s 7nm chips, though Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 is built on Samsung’s 5nm technology.
Intel, on the other hand, is unlikely to release 7nm processors until 2023; the company is currently using 10nm and 14nm chips. However, Intel’s chips have higher transistor density than competitors at the same nm scale, so the comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples. Meanwhile, TSMC is working on a 2nm process and expects to be ready by the end of the year.
It’s vague when 2nm processors will appear in consumer devices, but announcing 2nm chips and building them at scale are two distinct challenges. This year, IBM plans to release the first commercial 7nm processors in its Power Systems servers. Although 2nm processors are probably a few years away from making their way into laptops and phones, it’s good to know that more powerful and efficient CPUs are on the way.