March 09, 2011
By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer, Times Union
ALBANY -- The University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is getting next-generation technology from IBM Corp. that will allow it to build the most advanced university-based computer chip manufacturing line in the world.
The NanoCollege is licensing so-called 28-nanometer technology from IBM that is several generations ahead of how current chips are manufactured for today's cellphones and personal computers.
Such technology "nodes" refer to the size of the smallest feature -- like a transistor -- on a computer chip. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, and so with smaller features, companies like IBM can cram more transistors on a chip, making them more powerful.
The NanoCollege currently has a 65-nanometer manufacturing line at its Albany NanoTech complex that can make prototypes for today's electronics. That line was started less than a year ago.
But by adding 28-nanometer capabilities, the NanoCollege secures itself as major pre-manufacturing center for chips well into the future.
Alain Kaloyeros, the chief executive of the NanoCollege, said university-based research centers are lucky if they can get access to semiconductor technologies 10 years after commercialization. In this case, the school is getting the technology before it hits the market.
"This is three to five generations ahead," Kaloyeros said. "This opens up a lot of opportunities."
Kaloyeros said 28-nanometer chips could be five to 10 times faster than current chips on the market, and many companies will want to test it out in Albany before sending their designs off to volume manufacturers like IBM and GlobalFoundries, which is building a $4.6 billion computer chip factory in Malta that will use the 28-nanometer technology.
"IBM didn't have to do this," Kaloyeros said.
The school will not have to pay for the license, but it has committed $25 million for upgrades in order to be able to run its machines at the 28-nanometer node. That money comes from the fees it charges companies to use its equipment at the sprawling $7 billion Albany NanoTech complex on Fuller Road. Kaloyeros believes that companies that want to help supply the 28-nanometer process will also put more resources in the Capital Region.
IBM has a long-standing relationship both with the NanoCollege and New York state. Hundreds of IBM scientists work at Albany NanoTech developing the next-generation technologies and manufacturing techniques that the company uses to make computer chips -- some of which it shares with its commercial partners such as GlobalFoundries, Samsung and others. IBM has a major chip fab in East Fishkill, Dutchess County.
Richard Brilla, the college's vice president for strategy, alliances and consortia, said the college would be a first stop for many working on tomorrow's chips.
"It's the leading edge capability," Brilla said. "It provides a ready path to commercialization."
"Silicon Valley is in the Hudson Valley nowadays," said Bernie Meyerson, vice president of innovation and global university relations for IBM. "It's really a marvelous situation right now."