IBM, Hitachi Collaborate on Chip Development

The two-year agreement will focus on the development of 32- and 22-nanometer processors.

Two of the biggest names in technology are working on developing the smallest of chips.

IBM and Hitachi announced a new partnership March 10 that will focus on developing new technology that will help in the creation of 32- and 22-nanometer microprocessors. While the two companies have worked on various projects in the past, this announcement marks the first time IBM and Hitachi will collaborate on chip development.

The two-year agreement will look to overcome some of the technical obstacles in the development of increasingly smaller-a nanometer is a billionth of a meter-and significantly more complex chips that pack more transistors onto a piece of silicon. The agreement also allows both companies to share financial resources when developing these chips.

The development of smaller chips is essential as the both the IT industry and consumers look for more processing power in a range of smaller devices, including laptops, cell phones and PDAs. At the same time, to improve performance and battery life, companies such as IBM and Hitachi need to understand how a chip's transistors work within these small confines of these new devices.

Several of the world's leading semiconductor companies are working on a number of projects to produce 32-nm processors within the next several years. Later this year, Intel is expected to unveil a new microarchitecture called Nehalem, which will first be produced on a 45-nm manufacturing process before shrinking to 32-nm in the second half of 2009.

In addition to its new agreement with Hitachi, IBM is working with other semiconductor companies-Advanced Micro Devices, Chartered Semiconductor, Freescale, Infineon and Samsung-in developing 32-nm processors.

In December, these companies announced the first 32-nm SRAM (static random access memory) cells-an important key in the building of the next generation of processors-using a high-k metal gate process that reduces the amount of power that leaks from a chip's transistors when they sit idle.

IBM also collaborated with AMD in the development of that company's line of 45-nm x86 processors, which are expected by the second half of this year.

The joint research between IBM and Hitachi will be conducted at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering's Albany NanoTech Complex.