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IBM: What Makes This Tiny Chip a Breakthrough

IBM showed off a prototype chip today that is being hailed as a technological breakthrough for the tiny transistors — electrical switches that help power a computer — that have been made so thin they’re 1/10,000th the width of a human hair.

The breakthrough — the result of research at IBM and the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute in Albany — could allow as many as 20 billion transistors to be placed on a chip the size of a fingernail and is half the size of the current 14 nanometer standard, company officials said. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

While the technology is a prototype chip, it could have a tremendous impact “on the anticipated demands of future cloud computing and Big Data systems, cognitive computing, mobile products and other emerging technologies,” according to the company.

Moore’s Law: What’s in Store For the Next 50 Years of Computing Power

The breakthrough chip is the result of a $3 billion investment IBM made last year in partnership with the state of New York, Samsung and other technology suppliers for the purpose of chip research and design, officials said.

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