IBM Claims Progress In Building 22-Nanometer Chips - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

IBM Claims Progress In Building 22-Nanometer Chips

IBM is getting around the physical limitations of lithography methods by using mathematical techniques called computational scaling.

IBM says it has made an advancement in the production of future processors with components that are less than half the size of those in the most advanced x86 microprocessors used today to power desktops, notebooks, and servers.

The advancement announced Wednesday by IBM is known as "computational scaling," a process that enables the production of processors with 22-nanometer components. Shrinking the size of transistors and other components in processors leads to considerably higher performance-to-power ratios.

Today, the smallest components in PC processors are made at the 45-nm level. Intel has applied its 45-nm manufacturing process to its entire product line. Advanced Micro Devices is expected to ship its first 45-nm chips this year.

In developing a process for producing 22-nm chips, IBM is trying to avoid the expense of a complete overhaul of current manufacturing techniques.

Lithography methods used today in etching integrated circuits on processors are inadequate for producing 22-nm chips. IBM is getting around the physical limitations of these methods by using mathematical techniques called computational scaling. "IBM's computational scaling approach is centered on advanced mathematical techniques encapsulated in software tools that use high performance computing systems," said Gary Patton, VP of IBM's Semiconductor Research and Development Center.

In developing the new manufacturing process, IBM is getting help from partners Mentor Graphics and Toppan Printing. Mentor Graphics is working with IBM on a new resolution enhancement technique for printing circuit patterns on chips. Toppan is helping in the development of a new photomask, which is the opaque plate with transparencies that allow light to shine through a defined guide for casting circuit patterns.

No timetable was disclosed for when the new technologies and processes would be available.

IBM leads an alliance of tech companies developing the manufacturing process for 32-nm chips. NEC this month was the latest major semiconductor manufacturer to join the group, which is comprised of more than a half-dozen companies. The group expects to have 32-nm chips available next year.

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