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IBM invests $3 billion to research future of chips

IBM will look to incorporate new materials, like graphene and carbon nanotubes, in chips that will be smaller and faster.
By Ananth Baliga Follow @antbaliga Contact the Author   |   July 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM
ARMONK, N.C., July 10 (UPI) -- IBM said it will invest $3 billion over the next five years to find the next generation of microprocessors and chips by moving away from silicon.

IBM saidchip design had reached a standstill as companies were finding it difficult to shrink silicon chips. The company will explore the use of graphene, carbon nanotubes and other materials in order to scale down chips to the atomic level.

"The basic architecture of the computer has remained unchanged since the 1940s. We feel, given the kinds of problems we see today, [that] this is the time to start looking for new forms of computing," said Supratik Guha, director of physical sciences for IBM Research.

The chip maker said that it will first attempt to build chips with transistors, an electronic component, measuring only 7 nanometers. A nanometer is the equivalent of a tenth the width of a virus, the width of sixteen potassium atoms placed side by side or a thousandth the width of a human hair.

"We have in other points of history had to make leaps from one technology to another," said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president for Systems and Technology Group at IBM. "If we don't start inventing them now, we believe nobody will get there."

IBM is already working on building quantum computers and artificial intelligence machines, which will be based on a different computational structure, something which many scientists have being putting off.

The company's investment push comes in light of Moore's Law reaching its limits. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore had postulated that he number of transistors on an integrated circuit would double every two years. While it has proven to be true so far, experts believe silicon chips will reach their physical limitations, spelling the end of Moore's Law, in next decade.

"What will replace it at this point is unclear," Guha said.

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