IBM innovation garners National Medal of Technology

IBM honored for 40 years of semiconductor leadership

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Armonk, NY, USA - 16 Nov 2005: Technologies that emerged from years of unique collaboration between IBM's vaunted research and development labs paved the way for IBM's latest U.S. National Medal of Technology. This distinction is the highest honor awarded by the President of the United States for technology innovation and recognizes IBM's leadership in innovation.

This award specifically acknowledges over 40 years of IBM semiconductor leadership across a broad spectrum of technologies, including DRAM, copper, Silicon on Insulator, and Silicon Germanium, to name just a few. These innovations — and the Research leaders that have made them possible — have laid the foundation for IBM's continued success in decades to come.

"This award is yet another reaffirmation of our leadership in innovation and the essential role of IBM Research in providing a place for great science and great application of that science to real-world challenges," said Paul Horn, senior vice president of IBM Research. "It is, of course, primarily a testament to you, the people that make this division and our company what it is."

The leadership technologies recognized for the National Medal are an integral part of IBM's history and the predecessors to breakthrough science currently happening in the labs. For example, a paper recently published in the journal Nature described how IBM researchers developed a nanoscale silicon device that could make photonic technology viable. The technology behind BlueGene, and the collaboration between IBM Research and IBM Systems & Technology Group, has lead to IBM's leadership on the Top500 supercomputing list.

This unparalleled collaboration has been made possible by innovations in how research and development work, such as the formation of the Semiconductor Research & Development Center and later, the Communications Research & Development Center. The SRDC, created in the late 1980's, places scientists and engineers side-by-side to research and develop semiconductor technologies for the industry. The CRDC, formed in 1999, brings together IBM's worldwide research, chip development and network system design skills across divisional and geographic boundries to develop component technology for network communications products.

In addition to the accomplishments cited in the award, IBM's technology innovation has driven systems and supercomputing leadership while helping to build deeper relationships with clients who want to build their own breakthrough products in adjacent markets.

IBM also received the National Medal of Technology in 2000 for 40 years of innovation in the technology of hard-disk drives and information-storage products.

Copper Chip Technology
IBM's copper chip technology promises to expand the capabilities of incredibly small circuits. The new chips will exploit the capabilities of copper circuitry, which passes electrical currents more easily than aluminum. Aluminum has been the traditional material used in the wires which connect the "switches," or transistors, in silicon chips. The new copper chip technology is expected to produce smaller, faster chips that have enormous capacity for holding and transmitting information. In 1998, the first copper-based microprocessors were delivered.

One-transistor dynamic RAM (DRAM)
Most all computer memory chips today use the Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) technology in which each bit of information is stored in a memory cell consisting of one transistor and a tiny capacitor. This memory concept was first described in a patent by an IBM researcher issued in 1968. The one-transistor memory cell simplified a circuit in which multiple transistors were once used, permitting a significant increase in memory density. Today's DRAM chips typically store 64 million bits. DRAM is a key component of large computers, personal computers, and many other electronic products.

Silicon-on-Insulator (SOI) is an IBM technique that can be used to deliver higher performance microchips for servers and mainframes, or more power-efficient chips for battery-operated handheld devices. SOI protects the millions of tiny transistors on a chip with a blanket of insulation, allowing electrical current to flow through the circuits more efficiently.

Silicon Germanium
Silicon-Germanium (SiGe) combines the integration and cost benefits of silicon with the speed of more esoteric and expensive technologies to create significant improvements in operating frequency, current, noise and power capabilities.

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