IBM's 22-nanometer processor manufacturing is moving a step closer to reality after IBM, Mentor Graphics and Toppan Printing announce that they have come up with new ways to overcome the limitation of etching circuitry onto chips that are this small. In developing new methods for 22-nm chip manufacturing, IBM is looking to beat Intel to the market when it comes to smaller and smaller processors.
IBM is claiming a significant
breakthrough in the race with Intel to produce the first 22-nanometer
microprocessors for use in an array of products from large-scale server systems
to smaller, more power-efficient cell phones and PDAs.
With current technology, companies such as Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and
IBM are pushing their way toward producing
processors at 45 nanometers-Intel
is already selling 45-nm chips
-that will then be followed by 32-nm
However, the methods used to produce 45- and 32-nm chips have their limits
and at 22 nm, new techniques are needed to etch the integrated circuits onto processors
that are this small in scale, a nanometer being 1 billionth of a meter.
On Sept. 17, IBM announced that it had overcome
some of the obstacles to producing such small microprocessors. The technique,
which IBM called Computational Scaling,
overcomes the limitations of current lithography methods by using mathematical
techniques and software to manipulate the shapes of the masks and the
illuminating source during the etching process.
The result is that IBM will not have to
radically change its manufacturing process in order to create these 22-nm
processors. In this way, IBM is keeping up
Law, which states that computer processing power doubles every 18 months,
without changing the essential equipment it will use for 45- and 32-nm
At the same time, IBM will be able to
keep up with the chip manufacturing breakthroughs being developed by Intel.
Intel's road map calls for 32-nm processors in 2009, with new microprocessor
architecture arriving in 2010 and 22-nm chips in 2011.
For all these chip makers, 22-nm processors will allow for chips that use
less power and offer more performance for a range of devices, including giant
server systems and small, more mobile devices such as notebooks and other
mobile devices. In laptops, for example, 22-nm chips could potentially increase
battery life while allowing OEMs to experiment with different form factors that
are smaller and weigh less.
is also looking to integrate these chips into its cloud computing
In this case, IBM said it believes it will have to build new types of servers
to allow for the flexibility and compute power needed in a cloud computing
infrastructure that requires resources on demand.
So far, IBM has not offered a specific
date for when it plans to bring 22-nm processors into the mainstream. It's
believed that IBM's
will arrive in 2009.
In order to work toward its goal of 22-nm chips, IBM
is partnering with Mentor Graphics and Toppan Printing to come up with these
new techniques. For example, IBM is using Mentor's
technology to produce low-cost printing of two-dimensional patterns needed to
create the 22-nm processors.
In August, IBM
also announced that along with several of its chip development partners
had managed to create a method for developing SRAM (static RAM) memory cells on
a 22-nm manufacturing method. This is a key step toward eventually producing
fully functioning 22-nm processors.