Even though everyone has pretty much already seen the writing on the wall by now, Intel has remained staunch publicly. At long last, the chip giant is admitting that scaling will have to rely on improvements other than clock speeds. In fact, Intel is going as far to say that the future of semiconductors will rely on technologies that reduce power consumption rather than performance.
According to William Holt, the head of Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group, the semiconductor industry will see “major transitions” and the new technology will be “fundamentally different.” In order to continue moving forward, most of the new technologies mostly present a reduction in power consumption but at the cost of clock speeds due to lower switching speeds. This means all performance gains will have to come from improved IPC, new instruction sets and more cores.
With industry leader Intel already having delayed both 14nm and 10nm, it looks like silicon is nearing the end of the road. Even with the use of problematic EUV, the move to alternatives like lead telluride, carbon, Indium antimonide and indium gallium arsenide will likely happen within the decade. Even without major performance gains though, there is going to be a lot of excitement as laptops and mobile devices get better and better battery life.
Anyone who has spent some time in the computer industry will be familiar with Moore’s law, which states that the number of transistors on a computer chips doubles ever two years. This will in turn make them smaller, cheaper and more powerful, or will it?
We’re getting to a point now where the number of transistors we can fit on a chip via smaller and smaller manufacturing processes is reaching a theoretical limit, beyond which the laws of physics won’t allow the chip to function as transistors can only be made so small.
“We’ve been spoiled by these devices getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper in every generation. We’re just going to have to live with prices levelling off.” said Henry Samueli, Chief Technology Officer at Broadcom
With demand for more and more chips each year, with greater performance, and technology to research and construct smaller and smaller chips, costs are inevitably spiralling and Samueli thinks that chips getting cheaper and cheaper has to stop at some point. He is absolutely right too. With Broadcom putting 15nm chips into production next year, and in three generation’s time they’ll be working with 5nm chips. At 5nm the transistors will be just ten atoms wide, beyond that the laws of physics prevent further advancement.
“You can’t build a transistor with one atom. As of yet, we have not seen a viable replacement for the CMOS transistor as we’ve known it for the last 50 years,” said Samueli.
Moore’s Law will have to be broken, at some point in the near future chips will no be able to use smaller transistors and they won’t be getting cheaper, although I don’t doubt that they’ll still be getting more powerful.
Thank you Telegraph for providing us with this information.