IBM PR kills Moore's Law (or is it pinin' for the fjords?)


Not sure if news or PR blather.

IBM (NYSE:IBM) wants you to know that it's investing $3B in chip R&D over the next five years. It's voicing concerns that Moore's Law is running out (i.e., that it'll become impossible to double transistor densities every couple of years).

To that end, IBM's looking at neurosynaptics, quantum computing, non-silicon semiconductors, carbon nanotubes, graphene, TFETS and photonics. Plus sticking to the knitting, with the next couple of process shrinks.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers get dizzy from the PR spin, but refuse to make lame, "the chips are down" gags.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.


Don Clark drinks it all in:

[IBM] on Wednesday pledged to spend $3 billion over five years on semiconductor research, a move to reassure customers that the technology...will keep advancing. [By] tackling technical obstacles to the miniaturization of circuitry on conventional silicon chips and developing alternative materials and technologies to keeping boosting computing speed while consuming less energy.

IBM's research agenda underscores the increasing difficulty of wringing more benefits from chips by shrinking the size of...components. The pace of innovation, with the number of transistors on a chip typically doubling approximately every two years, is often described as Moore's Law, after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore.  MORE


But Agam Shah suffers déjà vu:

Silicon design has stalled and the ability to shrink chips is reaching its limit. IBM is looking at graphene, carbon nanotubes and other materials to replace silicon. [It] will try to develop chips that can be scaled down to the atomic level.

[This] a month after [HP] disclosed that it too is rethinking the basic design of computers.  MORE


Our old mate Robert McMillan adds:

Another promising area is silicon nanophotonics: a way of using light instead of electrical signals to send data around the chip. ... IBM is also investing in...quantum computing, or Neurosynaptic chips [whih] use computing models that go beyond the digital computing paradigm that has dominated the tech industry for fifty years.

[But] Intel...will tell you that Moore's Law is alive and well, and that it expects to crank out faster and faster chips for the foreseeable future.  MORE


But Roger Kay spots the Emporer's waggling weiner: [You're fired -Ed.]

Making chips is expensive. ... It’s hard to justify the economic benefits [moving] process technology down below 10nm [because it] may outweigh the benefits in transistor density, power savings, and performance.

But today, IBM reemphasized its commitment to remaining at the heart of silicon development. ... Of note, IBM is the first company to state with confidence that it will be able to produce 7nm chips. ... If IBM were leaving the silicon business, it would not invest this kind of money in these advanced projects.  MORE


7nm? Stephen Shankland elucidates:

7 about a thousandth the width of a human hair, a tenth the width of a virus particle, or the width of 16 potassium atoms.

The second goal is to choose among a range of more radical departures. ... Scientists and engineers have postponed the transition to this "postsilicon" future many times, but atomic-level constraints eventually will block today's basic manufacturing approach. ... Moore's Law...seems almost a given...but it takes sustained work in research and development. ... Even the industry leader, Intel, has troubles: last year, it delayed the debut of its 14nm "Broadwell" chip designs...because of a [yield] issue.

7nm technology is three generations of manufacturing into the future from IBM's current flagship processor, the Power8, built with a 22nm process. ... Intel expects at least one more step, the 5nm manufacturing process, and...Applied Materials has discussed 3nm after that.  MORE

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