Once again, IBM and Intel have made simultaneous announcements about new chip developments, with Intel winning the marketing race but IBM probably still ahead on the science. 

On Monday, Intel announced plans to invest $1,5-billion in expanding its New Mexico chip manufacturing plant to produce 45nm processors using new materials.
The new materials are central to the high-k metal gate transistor technology that future chips will use and both Intel and IBM announced their discover in January.
In a low-key announcement on Monday, IBM divulged how it had discovered these new materials using computer-based simulation.
A team of scientists at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory for the first time used advanced supercomputer-based models to more deeply understand and master the complex behavior of a promising new material – hafnium dioxide – in silicon transistors.
The high-k metal gate technology, which uses hafnium dioxide, is the first major change to the transistor since the emergence of silicon semiconductors and promises enhanced chip performance.
The semiconductor industry has long sought to find a new material for a crucial part of the transistor known as the gate dielectric, which, with the materials used currently, is limiting the industry's ability to keep pace with Moore's Law .
While hafnium dioxide appeared to be an ideal candidate for next-generation transistor gates, the introduction of any new material in semiconductors can have unforeseen consequences, so it had to be thoroughly understood beforehand.
One critical factor contributing to IBM's success in the highly complex and difficult task of integrating these new materials has been simulation of the interaction of this material at the atomic level.
Scientists at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory used expertise in computer-based modeling, together with the capabilities offered by the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, to determine why hafnium dioxide works so much better than other high-k materials previously considered by the industry.
As a result, the researchers were able to gain a clear picture – for the first time – of the underlying physics driving the unique electrical behavior of hafnium dioxide when it mixes with silicon, as observed in laboratory experiments, shedding light on the reasons that make this material unique as gate dielectric.
For this study, the IBM team simulated various material compositions using 50 different models of hafnium silicates, materials that form when silicon and hafnium oxides mix. These models contain up to 600 atoms and approx. 5,000 electrons, representing a realistic system.
A single calculation of the dielectric constant was accomplished in only five days of computing time on the two-rack Blue Gene/L supercomputer (4 096 processors) installed at the Zurich lab's site.
The complete simulation for all 50 models too about 250 days on Blue Gene – a worload that would take the most powerful laptop PC 700 years to calculate. The final tally of opeations came in at 200-billion-billion (2 x 10^20).
"Advances in algorithms and their optimal mapping on extremely large and scalable computer hardware such as Blue Gene are empowering us to do accurate and realistic atomic simulations of complex materials," explains Alessandro Curioni, supercomputing expert from IBM's Zurich lab.
"So today we are able to use supercomputers to investigate materials that will be eventually used in the next generation of supercomputers."
The approach used by the IBM team is called ab initio molecular dynamics, where the interactions between the particles of the system are derived from the basic laws of physics without employing any empirical data.
In the course of their ground-breaking work, the IBM team created more than 50 realistic virtual models of the hafnium silicates with various concentrations of hafnium on the supercomputer.
They then simulated the evolution of these structures over a given time period, estimated their dielectric constants and used these results to rationalise experimental findings.
The advantage of computer-based simulations is that, being virtual, they are free of the problems inherent to laboratory experiments, such as the effects of preparation conditions, the purity of the compounds, or the presence of parasitic reactions.
Most importantly, with the simulations one can follow what the individual atoms are doing.
Computer simulations allow the "intrinsic" and ideal characteristics of a material to be calculated and correlated directly with the structure at an atomic level.