IBM Research Debuts 2nm Test Chip with 50 Billion Transistors

May 6, 2021

IBM Research today announced the successful prototyping of the world’s first 2 nanometer chip, fabricated with silicon nanosheet technology on a standard 300mm bulk wafer. With ~50 billion transistors, the chip will enable major leaps in performance and energy efficiency for the next decade, according to IBM. The company’s research arm is projecting 45 percent higher performance or 75 percent lower energy use for its 2m node compared with today’s leading 7nm chips. (Similar performance gains were cited for IBM’s 5nm node, comprising ~30 billion transistors, announced in 2017.)

The target date for 2nm foundry technology to go into production is late 2024, said Mukesh Khare, vice president at IBM Research, in a pre-briefing held earlier this week. He emphasized the importance of having a partner ecosystem that leverages the platform.

Key technology enablers highlighted by IBM Research are:

•  Bottom dielectric isolation – providing the reduction in leakage current that is needed to scale gate length to 12nm.
•  A second generation inner spacer dry process for precise gate control.
•  Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography enabled in the front-end to produce variable nanosheet widths from 15nm to 70nm.
•  A multi-threshold-voltage (Multi-Vt) scheme – enabling threshold voltage control for applications that span from low-power mobile to HPC server chips.

IBM Research has been using EUV since its 7nm node, announced in 2015, but has now enabled EUV patterning at the front-end to create structures for the nanosheet and the gate.

“All the critical layers for the 2nm technology will use single exposure EUV, and that will have significant value and benefit, both in terms of cycle time reduction and defect reduction,” said Khare.

Khare said all these nanosheet enhancements are essential to the 2nm node technology, and he stated that these innovations are what differentiate IBM’s 2nm node from competing technologies, for example TSMC’s 3nm process.

As shown on the graphic below, the node’s transistor has three layers of nanosheet, and each sheet has a width of ~40nm and a height of ~5nm. The pitch is ~44nm, and gate length ~12nm.

The 2nm node number does not refer to a specific physical feature on the die. While in past decades, a semiconductor node name would relate to a given feature of the chip, this relationship has dissolved in the era of single-digit process nodes.

Khare described the current naming convention as “a metric that’s a combination of many parameters, including power, performance and density, to enable appropriate value and function that you can put on the chip every two-to-two-and-a-half years.”

Partner focused

IBM highlighted its partner ecosystem, which includes newly added R&D partner Intel, as well as Samsung (which is manufacturing IBM’s upcoming 7nm Power10 chips).

“We expect all our partners to benefit from this [2nm technology] innovation,” said Khare. “We’re very proud of our partnership with Intel and Samsung; that said, Samsung is our manufacturing partner and we’re very proud to have them manufacture our 7nm products.”

IBM has been shifting to a collaborative IP model, where it commercializes its research for partner use rather than (or in addition to) prioritizing its use for IBM’s own products. Arvind Krishna, who ran IBM Research when the 5nm and 7nm nodes were announced (in 2015 and 2017 respectively), is now the company’s CEO.

“The IBM innovation reflected in this new 2nm chip is essential to the entire semiconductor and IT industry,” said Darío Gil, senior vice president and director of IBM Research in a statement. “It is the product of IBM’s approach of taking on hard tech challenges and a demonstration of how breakthroughs can result from sustained investments and a collaborative R&D ecosystem approach.”

Khare echoed similar sentiments. “We’re very proud of being able to build an innovation platform for semiconductor,” he said, “and we’re very proud to be able to bring these world leaders in semiconductor manufacturing, equipment, EDA, materials, all of these companies, to this platform.”

Asked what’s next after 2nm and whether semiconductor miniaturization has hit a wall, Khare gave a nod to future progress, but provided no details. “With all the partners we have in Albany with New York State and NY CREATES, and the amount talent and energy we have, I don’t think there’s a wall that we can’t break through,” he said. “There are more breakthroughs in the pipeline and we will be sharing more as the technology matures.”

The 2nm prototype technology is being developed, manufactured and tested at the IBM Research facility in Albany, NY, which maintains 100,000 square foot of clean room space with 24/7 operation. Since selling its chip manufacturing business to GlobalFoundries in 2015, IBM relies on partners to manufacture production parts for its Power and z platforms.

IBM’s 7nm process technology, manufactured by Samsung, is scheduled to debut in Power10 later this year, six years after the test chip was announced.

IBM Unveils World’s First 2 Nanometer Chip Technology, Opening a New Frontier for Semiconductors

New chip milestone to propel major leaps forward in performance and energy efficiency

ALBANY, N.Y., May 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — IBM (NYSE: IBM) today unveiled a breakthrough in semiconductor design and process with the development of the world’s first chip announced with 2 nanometer (nm) nanosheet technology. Semiconductors play critical roles in everything from computing, to appliances, to communication devices, transportation systems, and critical infrastructure.

“The IBM innovation reflected in this new 2 nm chip is essential to the entire semiconductor and IT industry.”

Demand for increased chip performance and energy efficiency continues to rise, especially in the era of hybrid cloud, AI, and the Internet of Things. IBM’s new 2 nm chip technology helps advance the state-of-the-art in the semiconductor industry, addressing this growing demand. It is projected to achieve 45 percent higher performance, or 75 percent lower energy use, than today’s most advanced 7 nm node chipsi.

The potential benefits of these advanced 2 nm chips could include:

  • Quadrupling cell phone battery life, only requiring users to charge their devices every four daysii.
  • Slashing the carbon footprint of data centers, which account for one percent of global energy useiii. Changing all of their servers to 2 nm-based processors could potentially reduce that number significantly.
  • Drastically speeding up a laptop’s functions, ranging from quicker processing in applications, to assisting in language translation more easily, to faster internet access.
  • Contributing to faster object detection and reaction time in autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars.

“The IBM innovation reflected in this new 2 nm chip is essential to the entire semiconductor and IT industry,” said Darío Gil, SVP and Director of IBM Research. “It is the product of IBM’s approach of taking on hard tech challenges and a demonstration of how breakthroughs can result from sustained investments and a collaborative R&D ecosystem approach.”

IBM at the forefront of semiconductor innovation
This latest breakthrough builds on decades of IBM leadership in semiconductor innovation. The company’s semiconductor development efforts are based at its research lab located at the Albany Nanotech Complex in Albany, NY, where IBM scientists work in close collaboration with public and private sector partners to push the boundaries of logic scaling and semiconductor capabilities.

This collaborative approach to innovation makes IBM Research Albany a world-leading ecosystem for semiconductor research and creates a strong innovation pipeline, helping to address manufacturing demands and accelerate the growth of the global chip industry.

IBM’s legacy of semiconductor breakthroughs also includes the first implementation of 7 nm and 5 nm process technologies, single cell DRAM, the Dennard Scaling Laws, chemically amplified photoresists, copper interconnect wiring, Silicon on Insulator technology, multi core microprocessors, High-k gate dielectrics, embedded DRAM, and 3D chip stacking. IBM’s first commercialized offering including IBM Research 7 nm advancements will debut later this year in IBM POWER10-based IBM Power Systems.

50 billion transistors on a fingernail-sized chip  
Increasing the number of transistors per chip can make them smaller, faster, more reliable, and more efficient. The 2 nm design demonstrates the advanced scaling of semiconductors using IBM’s nanosheet technology. Its architecture is an industry first. Developed less than four years after IBM announced its milestone 5 nm design, this latest breakthrough will allow the 2 nm chip to fit up to 50 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail.

More transistors on a chip also means processor designers have more options to infuse core-level innovations to improve capabilities for leading edge workloads like AI and cloud computing, as well as new pathways for hardware-enforced security and encryption. IBM is already implementing other innovative core-level enhancements in the latest generations of IBM hardware, like IBM POWER10 and IBM z15.

About IBM
IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider, helping clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently, and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity, and service.

For more information, visit

Media Contacts
Bethany Hill McCarthy,
IBM Research

Sam Ponedal,
IBM Cognitive Systems

i Based on the projected industry standard scaling roadmap
ii Based on current usage statistics for 7 nm-based cell phones

SOURCE IBM,-Opening-a-New-Frontier-for-Semiconductors


Seeqc’s Oleg Mukhanov, Ph.D., and NY CREATES Collaborate on AFRL STTR Phase II Program on Scaling Fluxonium Qubits


Elmsford, NY – Seeqc, the Digital Quantum Computing company, today announced the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Rome, NY, has formally granted the firm a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II award with a start date of May 1, 2021. The $1.5 million award enables Seeqc and its partner, NY CREATES, to build on the success of their Phase I collaboration and continue to jointly develop fluxonium qubit technology.

”NY CREATES and Seeqc are looking forward to enable tantalum-based fluxonium qubit fabrication at 300mm wafer scale,” said Oleg Mukhanov, Ph.D., co-founder and CTO of Seeqc. “The AFRL award and ensuing project will serve as a proof-of-concept for our eventual goal of producing fluxonium qubits cost-efficiently and at scale. By nature, these qubits can benefit all quantum applications with improved controllability and fidelity.”

“This leading-edge partnership with Seeqc and AFRL is one of the many ways in which NY CREATES is working to accelerate the burgeoning quantum ecosystem in New York,” said Douglas Grose, Ph.D., President of NY CREATES. “NY CREATES is uniquely capable of supporting the open, collaborative R&D and economic development model that will establish New York as the preeminent site for companies working on Quantum 2.0 for years to come.”

Creating a path to scalable quantum computing

The Air Force awarded Seeqc’s proposal, “Highly Manufacturable Fluxonium Qubits at 300 mm Wafer Scale,” which outlines the necessary and repeatable industrial processes

needed to manufacture fluxonium qubits. Fluxonium qubits are superconducting qubits that utilize Josephson junctions, have longer quantum coherence and are advantageous for building high fidelity circuits with large numbers of qubits.

During the first phase of the project, which concluded successfully in November 2020, Seeqc and NY CREATES established the feasibility of designing, fabricating and characterizing superconducting quantum devices at 300 mm scale. In Phase II, the teams will use multiple cycles of learning on both the circuit design and fabrication fronts, and leverage the millikelvin characterization capabilities at Seeqc’s headquarters to produce and characterize the fluxonium qubits using highly-manufacturable processes at 300 mm wafer scale. The team-work that characterized the partnership in Phase I will continue during the 18-month Phase II to demonstrate the world’s first fluxonium qubits that leverage novel materials and process technologies at 300 mm scale. The fluxonium qubits will be integrated with superconducting classical chips designed and fabricated by Seeqc into multi-chip modules providing scalable qubit control and readout infrastructure. This should open a path for a near-term development of quantum processors with superior performance.

The NY CREATES’ team, led by Satyavolu ‘Pops’ Papa Rao is working on multiple areas relating to quantum technologies. In partnership with the University of Maryland, they were the first to demonstrate transmon qubits that utilized 193 nm optical lithography for patterning. In addition to working with AFRL on multiple funded projects, the team is a member of the Brookhaven-led Co-Design Center for Quantum Advantage, which was established in 2020 under the National Quantum Initiative Act. NY CREATES is also actively engaged with commercial entities working to accelerate photonic quantum computing. Researchers interested in joining the NY CREATES research team working on quantum technologies can apply through the NY CREATES website.


Advancing Digital Quantum Computing and National Security Initiatives

The Air Force’s $35 million quantum collider program is designed to accelerate quantum enabling technologies that will eventually play a pivotal role in national defense. This vital research will support Seeqc’s goal of developing a new approach to making quantum computing useful, via fully Digital Quantum Computing.

Seeqc’s solution combines classical and quantum computing to form an all-digital architecture through a system-on-a-chip design that utilizes 10-40 GHz superconductive classical Single Flux Quantum (SFQ) co-processing to address the efficiency, stability and cost issues endemic to quantum computing systems.


About Seeqc

Seeqc is developing the first digital quantum computing platform for global businesses. Seeqc combines classical and quantum technologies to address the efficiency, stability and cost issues endemic to quantum computing systems. The company applies classical and quantum technology through digital readout and control technology and through a unique chip-scale architecture. Seeqc’s quantum system provides the energy- and cost-efficiency, speed and digital control required to make quantum computing useful and bring the first commercially-scalable, problem-specific quantum computing applications to market.

The company is one of the first companies to have built a superconductor multi-layer commercial chip foundry and through this experience has the infrastructure in place for design, testing and manufacturing of quantum-ready superconductors. Seeqc is a spin-out of Hypres, the world’s leading developer of superconductor electronics. Seeqc’s team of executives and scientists have deep expertise and experience in commercial superconductive computing solutions and quantum computing. Seeqc is based in Elmsford, NY.


NY CREATES serves as New York’s bridge to the global advanced technology industry. As the primary resource for fostering public-private and academic partnerships in the state, NY CREATES attracts and leads industry connected innovation and commercialization projects that secure significant investment, advance R&D in emerging technologies, and generate the jobs of tomorrow. NY CREATES runs some of the most advanced facilities in the world, boasts more than 2,700 industry experts and faculty, and manages public and private investments of more than $20 billion – placing it at the global epicenter of high-tech innovation and commercialization.

For additional information, please visit


For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 4, 2021
NY CREATES: Jason Conwall |
Seeqc: Eric Becker |

Chip shortage highlights U.S. dependence on fragile supply chain

Seventy-five percent of semiconductors, or microchips — the tiny operating brains in just about every modern device — are manufactured in Asia. Lesley Stahl talks with leading-edge chip manufacturers, TSMC and Intel, about the global chip shortage and the future of the industry.

2021, May 02


Car companies across the globe have had to idle production and workers because of a shortage of semiconductors, often referred to as microchips or just chips. They’re the tiny operating brains inside just about any modern device, like smartphones, hospital ventilators or fighter jets. The pandemic has sent chip demand soaring unexpectedly, as we bought computers and electronics to work, study, and play from home. But while more and more chips are needed in the U.S., fewer and fewer are manufactured here.  

Intel is the biggest American chipmaker. Its most advanced fabrication plant, or fab for short, is located outside Phoenix, Arizona. New CEO, Pat Gelsinger, invited us on a tour to see how incredibly complex the manufacturing process is.  

First, we had to suit up to avoid contaminating the fab: head-cover – on; bunny suit – zipped; goggles; gloves… ready to go.

Lesley Stahl: I’m pristine! 

Pat Gelsinger: Everything in this environment is controlled. 

Together we stepped into a place with some of the most sophisticated new technology on Earth. 

Lesley Stahl: I need to ask you why we’re all yellow?  

Yellow filters remove light-rays that are harmful to the process. Overhead a computerized highway transports materials from one machine to the next. The process involves thousands of steps, where layer upon layer of microscopic circuitry is etched onto these silicon plates – that are then chopped up into chips that will end up in, say, your computer. Making just one can take six months.

Pat Gelsinger: You see, each one of these is a chip.

Lesley Stahl: Is a chip. I’m surprised. I thought chips were minute.

Pat Gelsinger: Well, each one of these chips has maybe a billion transistors on it.

Lesley Stahl: Oh, my goodness!

Pat Gelsinger: So there’s billion little circuits inside of it that are all on one of these chips. And then one wafer could have 100 or 1,000 chips on it.

Intel’s goal is to keep shrinking the transistors’ size, so you can pile more of them on a chip to make it more powerful and work faster.

Pat Gelsinger: Every one of these is laying down circuits that are so much smaller than anything, your hair, you know, any other part of human existence. You know, a COVID particle is way bigger than one of the lines that we’re creating here.

Lesley Stahl: How much does this fab cost?

Pat Gelsinger: $10 billion dollars.

Lesley Stahl: Billion??

Pat Gelsinger: $10 billion ’cause each one of these pieces of equipment is maybe $5 million. That’s a lot of millions of dollars.

Chips differ in size and sophistication depending on their end-use. Intel doesn’t presently make many chips for the auto-sector but because of the shortage it’s planning to reconfigure some of its fabs to start churning them out.

Lesley Stahl: I’m wondering, if we’re going to continue to have shortages, not just in cars, but in our phones and for our computers, for everything?

Pat Gelsinger: I think we have a couple of years until we catch up to this surging demand across every aspect of the business.  

COVID showed that the global supply chain of chips is fragile and unable to react quickly to changes in demand. One reason: fabs are wildly expensive to build, furbish, and maintain.

Lesley Stahl: it used to be that there were 25 companies in the world that made the high-end, cutting-edge chips. And now there are only three. And in the United States? – You.


Lesley Stahl: One. One.

Today, 75% of semiconductor manufacturing is in Asia. 

Pat Gelsinger: 25 years ago, the United States produced 37% of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. Today, that number has declined to just 12%.

Lesley Stahl: Doesn’t sound good.

Pat Gelsinger: It doesn’t sound good. And anybody who looks at supply chain says, “That’s a problem.” 

A problem because relying on one region, especially one as unpredictable as Asia, is highly risky. Intel has been lobbying the U.S. government to help revive chip manufacturing at home – with incentives, subsidies, and-or tax breaks, the way the governments of Taiwan, Singapore, and Israel have done. The White House is responding, proposing $50 billion for the semiconductor industry in the U.S. as part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan.

Lesley Stahl: Your business is extremely lucrative. In terms of revenue, you made $78 billion last year. Why should the government come in to a company, a business that’s doing so well overall?

Pat Gelsinger: This is a big, critical industry and we want more of it on American soil: the jobs that we want in America, the control of our long term technology future, and as we’ve also said, the disruptions in the supply chain.

Lesley Stahl: You have spent much more in stock buybacks than you have in research and development. A lot more.

Pat Gelsinger: We will not be anywhere near as focused on buybacks going forward as we have in the past. And that’s been reviewed as part of my coming into the company, agreed upon with the board of directors.

Lesley Stahl: Why shouldn’t private industry fund this instead of the government? The industries that rely on these chips – Apple, Microsoft, the companies that are rolling in money?

Pat Gelsinger: Well, they’re pretty happy to buy from some of the Asian suppliers. 

Actually, they don’t always have a choice. For chips with the tiniest transistors – there is no “made in the U.S.” option. Intel currently doesn’t have the know-how to manufacture the most advanced chips that Apple and the others need. 

Lesley Stahl: The decline in this industry. It’s kinda devastating, isn’t it?

Pat Gelsinger: The fact that this industry was created by American innovation– 

Lesley Stahl: The whole Silicon Valley idea started with Intel.

Pat Gelsinger: Yeah… The company stumbled. You know, it’s still a big company – we had some product stumbles, some manufacturing and process stumbles. 

Perhaps the biggest stumble was in the early-2000s, when Steve Jobs of Apple needed chips for a new idea: the iPhone. Intel wasn’t interested. And Apple went to Asia, eventually finding TSMC: the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company – today, the world’s most advanced chip-manufacturer, producing chips that are 30% faster and more powerful than Intel’s. 

Lesley Stahl: They’re ahead of you on the manufacturing side. 

Pat Gelsinger: Yeah. 

Lesley Stahl: Considerably ahead of you. 

Pat Gelsinger: We believe it’s gonna take us a couple of years and we will be caught up. 

Gelsinger is making big bets: breaking ground on two new giant fabs in Arizona, costing $20 billion; Intel’s largest investment ever. And he’ll announce this week a three and a half billion dollar upgrade of this fab in New Mexico. 

But TSMC is a manufacturing juggernaut worth over a half a trillion dollars. Collaborating with clients to produce their chip designs, it’s been sought out by Apple, Amazon, contractors for the U.S. military, and even Intel, which uses TSMC to produce their cutting-edge designs they’re not advanced enough to make themselves.

Lesley Stahl: How and why did Intel fall behind?

Mark Liu: It is surprising for us too.  

We spoke remotely with TSMC chairman Mark Liu at the company headquarters in Hsinchu, Taiwan. His company is a leading supplier of the chips that go into American cars. In March, 2020, as COVID paralyzed the U.S. – car sales tumbled, leading automakers to cancel their chip orders so TSMC stopped making them. That’s why when car sales unexpectedly bounced back late last year there was a shortage of chips: leaving cars with no power parked in carmakers’ lots – costing them billions.

Mark Liu: We heard about this shortage in December timeframe. And in January, we tried to squeeze as more chip as possible to the car company. Today, we think we are two months ahead, that we can catch up the minimum requirement of our customers. Before the end of June.

Lesley Stahl: Are you saying that the shortage in chips for cars will end in two months?

Mark Liu: No. There’s a time lag. In car chips particularly, the supply chain is long and complex. The supply takes about seven to eight months.

Lesley Stahl: Should Americans be concerned that most chips are being manufactured in Asia today?

Mark Liu: I understand their concern, first of all. But this is not about Asia or not Asia I mean, the shortage will happen no matter where the production is located because it’s due to the COVID.

Lesley Stahl: But Pat Gelsinger at Intel talks about a need to rebalance the supply chain issue because so much, so many of the chips in the world now are made in Asia.

Mark Liu: I think U.S. ought to pursue to run faster, to invest in R&D, to produce more Ph.D., master, bachelor students to get into this manufacturing field instead of trying to move the supply chain, which is very costly and really non productive. That will slow down the innovation because– people trying to hold on their technology to their own and forsake the global collaboration.

Within the world of global collaboration there’s intense competition. Days after Intel announced spending $20 billion on two new fabs, TSMC announced it would spend $100 billion over three years on R&D, upgrades, and a new fab in Phoenix, Arizona, Intel’s backyard, where the Taiwanese company will produce the chips Apple needs but the Americans can’t make. 

Mark Liu: That was a big investment. 

But there’s a looming shadow over TSMC, which supplies chips for our cars, iPhones, and the supercomputer managing our nuclear stockpile: China’s President Xi Jinping, who has intensified his long-time threat to seize Taiwan.  

China’s attempts to develop its own advanced chip industry have failed and so it’s been forced to import chips. But last year, Washington imposed restrictions on chipmakers from exporting certain semiconductors to china. Both Liu and Gelsinger fear the escalating trade war with China may backfire, and in Intel’s case: could hurt business. 

Lesley Stahl: Are they your biggest customer?

Pat Gelsinger: China is one of our largest markets today. You know, over 25% of our revenue is to Chinese customers. We expect that this will remain an area of tension, and one that needs to be navigated carefully. Because if there’s any points that people can’t keep running their countries or running their businesses because of supply of one critical component like semiconductors, boy, that leads them to take very extreme postures on things because they have to.

The most extreme would be China invading Taiwan and in the process gaining control of TSMC. That could force the U.S. to defend Taiwan as we did Kuwait from the Iraqis 30 years ago. Then it was oil. Now it’s chips.  

Lesley Stahl: The chip industry in Taiwan has been called the Silicon Shield.

Mark Liu: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: What does that mean? 

Mark Liu: That means the world all needs Taiwan’s high-tech industry support. So they will not let the war happen in this region because it goes against interest of every country in the world.

Lesley Stahl: Do you think that in any way your industry is keeping Taiwan safe?

Mark Liu: I cannot comment on the safety. I mean, this is a changing world. Nobody want these things to happen. And I hope– I hope not too– either.

Produced by Shachar Bar-On. Associate producer, Natalie Jimenez Peel. Broadcast associate, Wren Woodson. Edited by Warren Lustig.


Lesley Stahl

One of America’s most recognized and experienced broadcast journalists, Lesley Stahl has been a 60 Minutes correspondent since 1991.