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IBM Spending $3 Billion to Rethink Decades-Old Computer Design

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optoelectronic die on wafer

Credit: ExtremeTech

IBM announced that it plans to spend $3 billion over the next five years to research and develop new fundamental computing technologies. IBM's Supratik Guha and Tom Rosamilia say the silicon technology underpinning today's computers is reaching the limits of its potential and IBM wants to be among the first to develop the computing technologies of the future. The company will focus specifically on the possibilities of graphene and carbon nanotubes as replacements for silicon, which will enable computer chips to be scaled down to the atomic level, as well as entirely different technologies such as quantum and neural computing.

Guha says it remains unclear what will become the dominant technology after silicon, or if different technologies will exist in parallel, but carbon nanotubes hold some of the most immediate promise, although engineering challenges remain. IBM already has demonstrated a neural chip and has the goal to eventually build one that would mimic the human brain with about 10 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses while using only 1 kilowatt of power.

Rosamilia says the new technologies will likely appear first in high-performance computers before making their way into the broader consumer and enterprise markets.

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