IBM presented the concept transistor at IEEE 2023 earlier this month. The transistor was constructed from a nanosheet structure instead of the common FinFET. However, that was not the only special thing about the circuit, as it also performed very well at the boiling point of liquid nitrogen.
A nanosheet transistor is a form of Gate-all-around (GAA) transistors that several manufacturers are currently working on. This is because this structure has promising properties when producing chips smaller than “3nm”. It is therefore the ideal successor to the ubiquitous FinFET structure. From TSMC’s 2nm process and Intel’s 20Å process, chips based on GAA transistors are expected.
What this demonstration also showed is that this structure may be suitable for use in extremely low temperatures. This can also significantly increase the performance of current chips, but the chips are often not exactly stable at such a temperature. The concept transistor was made with the idea of liquid nitrogen cooling in mind, and could therefore operate stably at such temperatures. This also delivered almost a doubling of performance compared to room temperature. Energy consumption was also lower, which could enable a higher density of transistors in a chip. This may pave the way for a whole new class of AI and HPC chips that are cooled with liquid nitrogen for even higher performance.