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Smaller, Faster, Cheaper, Over: The Future of Computer Chips

By The New York Times

September 30, 2015

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Computer chip speed and energy efficiency upgrades cannot be sustained for much longer, with technologists expecting to reach a physical limit to shrinking semiconductor size and increasing transistor density by 2025. The end of Moore's Law, as these researchers predict, could have a negative impact on the computing industry--or any industry that depends on highly reliant, low-cost electronics.

"The most fundamental issue is that we are way past the point in the evolution of computers where people auto-buy the next latest and greatest computer chip, with full confidence that it would be better than what they've got," says former Intel engineer Robert P. Colwell.

Avoiding the barrier of Moore's Law--and possibly even bypassing it--may involve chip companies using software or designs that extract more computing power from the same number of transistors.

Replacing silicon with more exotic materials is another possibility, leading to faster and smaller transistors, new types of memory storage, and optical communications links, according to Efficient Power Conversion Corp. CEO Alex Lidow.

The ability to manufacture smaller wires and chip features might be enabled by extreme ultraviolet lithography, if its use in commercial production can be demonstrated.

The end of this decade should witness the emergence of ultra-low-power chips, which may not even need batteries, and this will likely force product designers to rethink their approaches.

From The New York Times
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