The semiconductor industry’s constant challenge is to make microchips that are smaller, faster, more powerful and more energy efficient — simultaneously.

On Thursday, IBM (IBM) announced it has created a 2-nanometer chip, the smallest, most powerful microchip yet developed.

Most computer chips powering devices today use 10-nanometer or 7-nanometer process technology, with some manufacturers producing 5-nanometer chips. The lower numbers denote smaller, more advanced processors. IBM’s new chip uses 2-nanometer process technology, a huge leap forward for the components used to power everything from consumers’ smart phones and appliances to supercomputers and transportation equipment.

“There are not many technologies or technological breakthroughs that end up lifting all boats,” director of IBM Research Dario Gil said in an interview. “This is an example of one.”

The way to improve a chip’s performance is to increase the number of transistors — the core elements that process data — without increasing its overall size. The new 2-nanometer chips are roughly the size of a fingernail, and contain 50 billion transistors, each about the size of two DNA strands, according to IBM vice president of hybrid cloud research Mukesh Khare.

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