IBM is partnering with Japan’s chipmaking startup Rapidus to develop cutting-edge 2-nanometer chips, reports Bloomberg. Rapidus is a venture-backed by some of Japan’s biggest electronics firms, and it aims to fabricate such chips at scale in the latter half of this decade.
The most advanced semiconductors today are built at the larger 3-nanometer node. IBM’s 2-nanometer chips are expected to be even more powerful and efficient, and they could be used in a wide range of applications, including artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and the metaverse.
IBM is providing Rapidus with key process technology that enables 2-nanometer chip nodes and beyond. IBM is also investing a significant amount of resources in the project, even sacrificing some capacity that it could have used in other research.
“We want Rapidus to succeed,” said IBM Japan chief technology officer Norishige Morimoto. “We want it to contribute to a stable supply of the chips we and the world need.”
Rapidus is a quasi-public project that started last year as a venture to build out Japan’s local chipmaking capacity. It has the government’s support and is led by veterans of the semiconductor supply chain.
The daunting task ahead of Rapidus is to create a world-class chipmaking foundry — fabricating silicon for outside customers — to catch up with industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) within a handful of years.
Rapidus has drawn investment from companies including Toyota Motor Corp, Sony Group Corp and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. The company is working with IBM and Belgium-based microelectronics research hub Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre.
The Japanese firm expects to invest ￥5 trillion (US$34.52 billion) in its 2-nanometer project, roughly matching the annual outlay of TSMC and fellow leading chipmaker Samsung Electronics Co.
The collaboration between IBM and Rapidus is a significant step towards securing a long-term global supply of semiconductors. It is also a sign of Japan’s commitment to rebuilding its domestic chipmaking industry.
As the demand for semiconductors continues to grow, the need for more production capacity is becoming increasingly urgent. The collaboration between IBM and Rapidus could help to address this need and ensure that the world has access to the chips it needs.
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