IBM to help build $100 million supercomputer center

Will New York take California's spot as the center for chip design? The state certainly is giving it its best shot.

IBM, in conjunction with other companies, will help build a supercomputer center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The center is expected to develop new semiconductors and advance nanotechnology.

The new Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, planned to be operational by the end of the year, will be the largest supercomputing center at a university and one of the 10 largest in the world, according to its backers. Troy, N.Y.-based Rensselaer is already a major center for nanotechnology research and part of Gov. George Pataki's strategy to make the state one of the leaders in the field through tax breaks, infrastructure and educational programs.

The budget for the center is roughly $100 million.

Cadence, which makes semiconductor design tools, and Advanced Micro Devices will participate as well. IBM and AMD, among others, already are part of an effort to build a lithography research center in Albany, N.Y. (AMD's chief executive, Hector Ruiz, said in 2003 that New York State was the only U.S. region aggressively courting the electronics industry.)

At the Rensselaer supercomputing center, scientists will attempt to design transistors and other devices measuring only a few nanometers long (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter). They will also simulate how different atoms and materials interact.

The research could play into processor development. Today's chips sport features measuring less than 65 nanometers and consist of only a few atoms. By 2015, features on some chips will measure only 22 nanometers.

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