You may have seen smartphone makers tout the fact that their phones sport 5nm processors, which makes them more powerful and efficient. The new 5nm chips from Qualcomm etc. are more powerful than anything we’ve seen before, so imagine how powerful a 2nm chip would be. However, the first 2nm chip doesn’t come from one of your regular chip makers. Instead, IBM unveiled the world’s first 2nm chip yesterday, providing a proof of concept for the rest of the industry. IBM’s chip is not something you will see on phones today, but it has implications for the entire industry.
According to IBM, the new chip can quadruple the battery life on a smartphone and slash the carbon footprint in data centers by cutting the number of processors required in them. IBM also claims that it can “drastically” speed up laptops, allowing quicker processing of applications and “assisting in language translation more easily”. It can also improve object detection on autonomous cars, helping them understand what’s around them faster.
2nm chips sport smaller transistors, meaning more transistors can be packed onto a single cihp. Which in turn means that given the same size of the overall chip, a 2nm chip will pack more transistors and hence be faster than others. “More transistors on a chip also means processor designers have more options to infuse core-level innovations to improve capabilities for leading edge workloads like AI and cloud computing, as well as new pathways for hardware-enforced security and encryption,” the company said in a blog post.
This also improves the efficiency of chips. “It is projected to achieve 45 percent higher performance, or 75 percent lower energy use, than today’s most advanced 7 nm node chips,” the post said. According to AnandTech, the IBM chip can pack as many as 333 million transistors per square meter, which is just less than double the 171 million you find on 5nm chips made by the Taiwan Semiconductor Company (TSMC) right now.
As mentioned before, the 2nm chip is only a proof of concept right now, so you shouldn’t expect these on phones and other devices any time soon. TSMC currently makes 5nm chips and has said it aims to start with 4nm chips later this year, while 3nm processors are expected to go into early production late next year. So, 2nm chips will likely come sometime in 2023, if not later.
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