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Chinese chipmaker licenses IBM's 45nm tech

IBM has licensed technology for making 45-nanometer chips to Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation.

IBM has licensed its next-generation technology for manufacturing processors to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., the largest Chinese chipmaker, the companies said Wednesday.

The partnership spotlights the growing technical abilities in China, a country that's already a manufacturing powerhouse for lower-tech products. Terms of the IBM deal weren't disclosed.

The circuitry on microprocessors has steadily shrunk in size, letting manufacturers squeeze more features onto chips, reduce power consumption, and lower chip prices. The industry currently is only beginning a transition from current chips built with 65-nanometer circuitry elements to those with 45-nanometer elements. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.)

"We are excited about the SMIC-IBM licensing partnership, which will accelerate SMIC technology advancement in logic process technology and help us provide optimal solutions for our customers at our 300mm facilities," said Matthew Szymanski, vice president of corporate relations for Shanghai-based SMIC, in a statement. The 300mm measurement refers to the diameter of silicon wafers from which chips are carved; SMIC said started 300mm wafer production earlier in December.

SMIC is a chip foundry, meaning that it manufactures chips that other companies design. Its 65-nanometer low-power manufacturing process currently is under qualification for customer products, the company said.

"China is a rapidly growing, strategic marketplace, and SMIC is the largest Chinese foundry," said Kevin Hutchings, IBM's vice president of intellectual property licensing, in a statement.