What’s After Moore’s Law? The Economist Takes a Look Ahead

May 2, 2016

“‘There’s a law about Moore’s law,’ jokes Peter Lee, a vice-president at Microsoft Research: ‘The number of people predicting the death of Moore’s law doubles every two years.’”

In a recent Technology Quarterly article titled “After Moore’s Law,” The Economist magazine explored the possibilities of what’s next for semiconductor manufacturing once this long-standing industry expectation finally runs out of steam. For those unfamiliar with Moore’s Law, in 1965, Gordon Moore, a founder of Intel, wrote a paper on his observation that the number of electronic components on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every year.

Although the pace of circuit doubling eventually slowed to about once every two years, this observation – later known as Moore’s Law – has largely remained valid:  Intel’s first microprocessor back in 1971 contained 2,300 transistors; today, advanced chips contain billions of transistors. However, as Lee alluded, maintaining this incredible rate of innovation is no small feat. Some device features are now so tiny that they are approaching a fundamental size limitation – the atom – which is why people are once again predicting the end of Moore’s Law.

The article provides an overview of chip electronics and alternative designs and materials, like FinFET and graphene, currently being used to continue scaling. It also explores the potential uses of quantum computing and other novel technologies to prolong device scaling and performance gains (see table below). One thing we know is ahead for the semiconductor industry:  the ongoing need for innovation!

Read more from The Economist through the following links:

After Moore’s Law:  Double, double, toil and trouble – After a glorious 50 years, Moore’s law—which states that computer power doubles every two years at the same cost—is running out of steam. Tim Cross asks what might replace it

More Moore:  The incredible shrinking transistor – New sorts of transistors can eke out a few more iterations of Moore’s law, but they will get increasingly expensive

New designs:  Taking it to another dimension  –How to get more out of existing transistors

Brain scan:  Bruno Michel – IBM’s head of advanced micro-integration reckons biology holds the key to more energy-efficient chips

Quantum computing:  Harnessing weirdness  – Quantum computers could offer a giant leap in speed—but only for certain applications

What comes next:  Horses for courses – The end of Moore’s law will make the computer industry a much more complicated place



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