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Nvidia is leveraging GPUs to build 2nm (and smaller) chips

As part of Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC), the company announced a new software library that will enable 2nm and smaller transistors. The library is called cuLitho, and Nvidia has already partnered with the world’s largest semiconductor companies to use the tech, including TSMC and Synopsys.

The software stack is built for computational lithography, which is the process of etching the components of a processor into a silicon wafer. Lithography has gotten more complex as the demand for smaller manufacturing processes has increased, but the current technology has reached an inflection point.

Nvidia's cuLitho technology on a silicon wafer.

Nvidia says cuLitho goes beyond these limits, allowing semiconductor brands to build 2nm transistors and even smaller. Intel announced in 2021 its Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to push these limits as well, and the company says its upcoming Intel 4 node will be the first to take advantage of EUV lithography.

The difference with cuLitho is that it runs on GPUs. Nvidia says this approach is 40 times faster than the current lithography technique, which the company claims accounts for tens of billions of CPU hours every year. With GPUs at the helm, Nvidia says cuLitho can reduce power consumption by nine times over current techniques. In practice, that’s moving from 40,000 CPU systems to 500 Nvidia DGX H100 with the same results, according to Nvidia.

It seems the industry is on board with the advancements as well. Taiwan-based TSMC is the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, supplying chips for Nvidia and AMD GPUs, Apple products, and most chips from Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Broadcom. C.C. Wei, CEO of TSMC, said that the introduction of cuLitho is “making important contributions to the continuation of semiconductor scaling.”

That’s at odds with Nvidia’s stance just a few months ago, when Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang boldly claimed Moore’s Law dead in a justification for higher GPU prices. According to Nvidia, cuLitho not only bypasses these bottlenecks, but also does so in less time. Aart de Geus, CEO of Synopsys, says that tasks that used to take weeks can now be accomplished in days with cuLitho.

Nvidia’s announcement could accelerate timelines at some of the world’s largest semiconductor brands. According to recent reports, Apple is looking into 3nm chips to power the next generation of MacBooks, after reportedly sidelining plans to move to a smaller node in 2022.

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Jacob Roach
Senior Staff Writer, Computing
Jacob Roach is a writer covering computing and gaming at Digital Trends. After realizing Crysis wouldn't run on a laptop, he…
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