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July 16th, 2008

Thinking Outside the Moore's Law Box

A lot of industry people in the know are predicting that Moore's Law will come to an end sometime in the next decade. Starting with the current leading-edge 45nm process technology, chipmakers are looking to deliver three more shrinks until silicon-based transistors run up against quantum mechanical effects. Most vendors have plans in place for 32nm and 22nm processors using UV lithography. The next stop is 16nm, but the general consensus is that it will have to be implemented with something other than CMOS-based material -- perhaps SiGe or graphene. At 9 or 10 nanometers, quantum tunneling starts to become a real problem, so even more futuristic approaches, like molecular electronics or spintronics, will be required.

There's no guarantee that the development of these more advanced technologies will obey a Moore's Law timeline, which was based on the progression of two-dimensional semiconductors. So what's a chipmaker to do? Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and chief technologist for the company's systems and technology group, thinks 3-D chip stacking will be the way to go. In a recent article in Semiconductor International, Meyerson argues that in the future 2D scaling will break down for silicon technologies.


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