Looking around, it’s quite easy for one to come to the conclusion that our computational prowess has reached a level at which not much else really needs to be done. We have smartphones that are eminently fast, games that are near-photorealistic, and supercomputers that can make tens of thousands of trillions of calculations every second. A technological golden age indeed, however there are many out there in the tech world who only see current technology as a step towards further greatness, and IBM are certainly a part of this cohort.
Last week the computer giant released news that it had created a computer chip four times faster than the quickest existing chips thanks to new manufacturing methods and materials. The ultra-dense computer chips, produced on behalf of an international consortium that includes IBM, New York State, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and a number of other companies, have brought back the notion of Moore’s Law (the theoretical doubling of transistors every two years), a theory whose predictive qualities had diminished over the past few years as tech companies struggled to reduce the size of semiconductors.
Whether you’re enjoying a game of slots on your mobile on sites such as Slotocash, or Skyping a friend 10,000km away, you’re likely doing so with the use of chips that are between 90 nanometres and 14 nanometres (processes of which emerged in 2004 and 2014, respectively) wide. To put that in to perspective, a human blood cell is 7,500nm across, DNA being 2.5nm; transistors are, indeed, absolutely tiny, however IBM’s new transistors are 7nm across, a huge reduction that means we will now be able to produce microprocessors with 20 billion transistors built in.
The new chips are produced using a mix of silicon and germanium, materials that have transistors etched in to them by incredibly powerful extreme ultraviolet light. EUV has the capability to literally etch patterns on to chips that are mere atoms in diameter, a dazzling thought that truly showcases our collective technological proficiency, and could open up all manner of possibilities for increases in both consumer and data-led tech development.
Strangely enough, Moore’s law predicted it all! Despite the theory falling out of favour in the past two or three years as companies such as Intel struggled to reduce transistor sizes, innovative silicon smiths have managed to bring tech development back on the prescribed path! IBM is pumping $3 billion in to the new chips over the next three years, but what amazing uses would you like to see these super-small chips used for? Share your thoughts in the comments section!