A New Trajectory for Moore's Law

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A New Trajectory for Moore

In the past 20 years alone, computing performance has seen a dramatic increase of about 10,000 times.    This increase has, of course, been due to advances in processor technology, where performance for price has doubled every 18 to 24 months. 

The impact has been profound, driving increases in productivity and efficiency for individuals, small businesses, and major corporations, while spawning innovations in medicine, defense, entertainment, and communications. 

But now, this rate of processor improvement, known as Moore’s Law, is approaching the physical limits of the technologies inherent in current computer chips.  It has been known all along that there are serious technical issues associated with packing more transistors and connections onto silicon chips. 

For instance, the wavelengths of light used for critical steps in chip manufacturing have fundamental limitations, as does power management. 

These limitations may be roadblocks for continued improvement of silicon chips made in traditional ways, but other innovative technologies and processing approaches are being developed that have the potential to keep processor advances in line with Moore’s Law. 

We will examine three of them:

  1. New strides in silicon chip technology
  2. Circuits made from the nanotech “wonder material” graphene
  3. Circuits based on a new substance called molybdenite

Several promising developments in silicon technology have been discovered as it moves to the nanoscale.  One of them is a new technique in photo-lithography invented by researchers at MIT and the University of Utah.1,2  It enables the production of complex shapes and finer lines on chips, delivering additional leaps in computational power from conventional slivers of silicon. 

Photolithography is the process of transferring the circuit paths and electronic elements of a chip onto a wafer’s surface using light sources.  With traditional photolithography, features on chips are limited to being larger than the wavelength of the light used.  The new technique has produced features that are one-eighth that size.

Although this feat been achieved previously, this is the first time it’s been done using equipment that is suitable for quick, inexpensive manufacturing processes.  The technique relies on less-expensive light sources and conventional chip-manufacturing equipment, putting the cost on par with that found in current chip-making plants.

Massively parallel computing is another path being promoted as a means of pushing the limits of silicon-based processors in order to continue the persistent pace of doubled performance...

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