Samsung Electronics and IBM jointly develop new chip design

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Samsung Electronics and IBM jointly develop new chip design

A wafer fitted with a new chip design called VTFET, which is jointly developed by IBM and Samsung Electronics [IBM]

A wafer fitted with a new chip design called VTFET, which is jointly developed by IBM and Samsung Electronics [IBM]

 
Samsung Electronics and IBM jointly announced an advancement in chip design that could extend cell-phone battery life from days or less to a week or more.  
 
The tech companies said on Tuesday that they developed new architecture for the placement of transistors on wafers called Vertical Transport Field Effect Transistors (Vtfet).  
 
The new structure packs transistors vertically as opposed to the side-to-side arrangement of mainstream architecture known as finFET, so that more transistors can be layered to enhance semiconductor performance and reduce energy loss.
 
Transistors, key semiconductor components, switch or amplify electrical signals. The higher the number, the better the performance and the lower the power consumption.
 
The new design could reduce energy usage by 85 percent compared to finFET-based chips, according to a statement released by IBM.  
 
Real-life applications of the Vtfet system would allow batteries to power a smartphone for over a week and electronic devices to work under challenging conditions, like in ocean buoys or in spacecraft, IBM says.  
 
The development is in the early stages and being carried out at an IBM research center, making it unlikely for the companies to bring chips utilizing the Vtfet to the market any time soon.  
 
Neither IBM nor Samsung Electronics announced the time frame for the marketing of Vtfet, although the Armonk, New York-based company said that innovations at the Albany Nanotech Complex are "often directed toward commercialization."
 
Despite being vague about when it will incorporate the architecture into chip products, IBM is confident the development will have an impact on business and beyond.  
 
"Today's technology announcement is about challenging convention and rethinking how we continue to advance society and deliver new innovations that improve life, business and reduce our environmental impact," said Mukesh Khare, vice president, IBM Research.  
 
He said that the new chip design could help overcome a set of limitations facing the chip industry -- mainly the challenge of packing a larger number of transistors on a chip and at the same time taking up less space.  
 
"Given the constraints the industry is currently facing along multiple fronts, IBM and Samsung are demonstrating our commitment to joint innovation in semiconductor design and a shared pursuit of what we call 'hard tech'," he added.  
 
IBM says that the development has the potential to put the law back in Moore’s Law. According to the theory, introduced in 1965, integrated-circuit capacity and speed would double every two years, but in recent years the pace of development has bumped up against the limits of physics.
 
The U.S. tech company also announced on Tuesday that it tapped Samsung Electronics to manufacture chips to be used in IBM servers. The chips will be fabricated using 5-nanometer technology.  
 
The deal follows a previous contract between the two in 2018 where Samsung Electronics fabricated 7-nanometer chips designed by IBM, which became available as Power10 server chips.
 

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]
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