Silicon chips are reaching their limit. Here’s the future
We live in a world powered by computer circuits. Modern life depends on #semiconductor chips and transistors on silicon-based integrated circuits, which switch electronic signals on and off. Most use the abundant and cheap element silicon because it can be used to both prevent and allow the flow of electricity; it both insulates and semiconducts.
Until recently, the microscopic transistors squeezed onto silicon chips have been getting half the size each year. It’s what’s produced the modern digital age, but that era is coming to a close. With the internet of Things (IoT), AI, robotics, self-driving cars, 5G and 6G phones all computing-intensive endeavors, the future of tech is at stake. So what comes next?
What is Moore’s Law?
That would be the exponential growth of computing power. Back in 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, observed that the number of transistors on a one-inch computer chip double every year, while the costs halve. Now that period is 18 months, and it’s getting longer. In truth, Moore’s Law isn’t a law, merely an observation by someone who worked for a chip-maker, but the increased timescales mean intensive computing applications of the future could be under threat.
A smartphone contains over 200 billion transistors. Credit: CC0 Creative Commons
Is Moore’s Law dead?
No, but it’s slowing so much that silicon needs help. ”Silicon is reaching the limit of its performance in a growing number of applications that require increased speed, reduced latency and light detection,” says Stephen Doran, CEO of the UK’s Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult.
However, he thinks it’s premature to be talking about a successor to silicon. ”That suggests silicon will be completely replaced, which is unlikely to happen any time soon, and may well never happen,”