IBM is worried that computer chip technology as we know is reaching its limits so is investing $3 billion over the next 5 years to develop new technologies.
Current silicon chip technology gets faster by shrinking the die, but the smaller it gets the harder it is to obtain a reliable on/off state. Current chips are around 22nm and future generations should scale down to 14nm and 10nm in the next few years, but beyond this things start to get harder.
IBM’s first research program is aimed at so-called “7 nanometer and beyond” silicon technology that will address serious physical challenges that are threatening current semiconductor scaling techniques. The second is focused on developing alternative technologies for post-silicon era chips using entirely different approaches, which IBM scientists and other experts say are required because of the physical limitations of silicon based semiconductors.
In particular, IBM will be investing significantly in emerging areas of research that are already underway at IBM such as carbon nanoelectronics, silicon photonics, new memory technologies, and architectures that support quantum and cognitive computing.
We could try to explain these technologies but would probably get it horribly wrong, so if you want to know your carbon nanoelectronics from your cognitive computing why not read the full press release.