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IBM pumps $3bn into semiconductor research to discover chips of the future

Aims to develop alternative technology for 'post-silicon era chips'
Thu Jul 10 2014, 13:16
IBM Watson supercomputer

BIG BLUE IBM has announced a $3bn (£1.7bn) research investment for semiconductor development to discover the next innovations in chipmaking.

The investment will fund 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", IBM said.

The first research programme is aimed at "seven nanometre and beyond" silicon technology that will address serious physical challenges that threaten present semiconductor scaling techniques.

The second programme is focused on developing alternative technologies for post-silicon era chips using different approaches that IBM scientists and other experts say are required because of the physical limitations of silicon based semiconductors. For example, it aims to find ways to scale and shrink silicon chips and research new materials altogether to use in making them, such as carbon nanotubes, which are more stable than silicon and are also heat resistant and can provide faster connections.

"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," IBM said.

"These investments will push IBM's semiconductor innovations from today's breakthroughs into the advanced technology leadership required for the future."

IBM's research teams will include scientists and engineers from New York, California, and Europe. IBM said that it will also invest in emerging areas of research that are already underway at the company such as silicon photonics, new memory technologies, and architectures that support quantum and cognitive computing.

"These teams will focus on providing orders of magnitude improvement in system level performance and energy efficient computing," IBM said. "[We] will continue to invest in the nanosciences and quantum computing, two areas of fundamental science."

IBM said that it will also continue to fund and collaborate with university researchers to explore and develop future technologies for the semiconductor industry alongside the research injection. µ


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