Silicon Chip Density Nears Physical Limit

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Researchers reported that the silicon chips are nearing their physical limit, and the next big growth in the semiconductor industry is overdue.

Moore’s law is one of the most famous technological predictions ever made, which says that the number of components on an integrated chip would double every year. Increasing device density enables high-tech devices to be ever faster and more powerful.

According to the paper, “Moore’s Law Revisited through Intel Chip Density,” there have been six waves of such improvements, each lasting about six years, during which transistor density per chip increased at least 10-fold. The new study identifies the wave pattern by adopting a novel perspective on chip density, factoring out the changing size of chips used in Fairchild Semiconductor International and Intel Processors starting in 1959.

According to authors Jesse Ausubel and David Burg of the Program for the Human Environment (PHE) at The Rockefeller University, New York, after each six-year growth wave episode, about three years of negligible growth followed.

They say that the next big growth is now overdue, and it is due to an increasing demand for e.g. data-hungry artificial intelligence technologies like facial recognition, 5G cellular networks and equipment, self-driving cars and similar high-tech innovations requiring ever greater processing speed and computing capability.

Cerberus, a startup company, has built the largest chip with 56 times the size of the largest graphical processing unit (GPU). It is dominating the computing platforms for AI and machine learning.

“The wafer-scale chip has 1.2 trillion transistors, embeds 400,000 AI-optimized cores (78 times more than the largest GPU), and has 3,000 times more in-chip memory.”

Says Mr. Ausubel, Director of the PHE: “We have climbed six times into higher valleys of silicon and similar substrates, but may be exiting the silicon valleys for landscapes of other materials and processes.”

“Qubit Gardens may await at the end of the present climb.”

The report appeared in the journal PLoS ONE. 


 

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