In 1965, Gordon E. Moore, the founder of Intel, noticed that the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled every year since their inception in 1958. Moore predicted that this doubling of components would continue at an annual rate for at least another 10 years. Nearly fifty years later, Moore’s Law, as it is commonly referred to today, continues to be the driving force behind the technological growth of the semiconductor industry. Despite its influence continually pushing innovations in processing speed, memory capacity, sensors, and even pixels in digital cameras, the general consensus amongst chip manufacturers is that Moore’s Law will soon come to an abrupt halt.
Rising costs of the manufacturing process have been linked most strongly with the demise of Moore’s Law. Chip designers’ ability to design such complex chips is falling behind the increasing demands of the manufacturing process. As a result, IBM estimated that Moore’s Law will come to an end sometime between 2015 and 2020. Robert Colwell, former chief architect for Intel, believes that the law could be dead, at the latest, by 2022. While it might be possible to build sub-5 nanometer chips by 2022, the expense and degree of duplication, so as to ensure proper functionality, will be far from cost-effective.
Chip manufacturers, including Intel, are well aware of the costly and complicated manufacturing techniques used in decreasing the size of embedded processors and realize that 5nm is likely the stopping point. Intel is currently working on implementing a 10nm chip by as soon as 2015. With the industry set for a new era of chip manufacturing past the 5nm benchmark, how exactly can Moore’s Law remain the industry standard? Well, plain and simple, Moore’s Law will end with transistors’ diminution. However, this does not mean to say that an entirely new law cannot be created; a law based on the premise of Gordon Moore’s original projection.
Quantum computers show the most promise for further development of integrated circuits. By combining quantum physics with semiconductor technology, we can potentially process information on a scale far beyond what is currently possible. Moreover, parallel computing can just as easily provide a platform for future economic growth and commercial innovation, as evidenced by the growing applicability of GPGPUs and similar technologies in embedded hardware. Carbon nanotubes have also burst onto the scene – outperforming silicon in terms of energy efficiency. We at VDC Research believe that the principal mechanics of Moore’s Law will continue to live on past the era of transistors and into burgeoning computing technologies like quantum computing, parallel computing, and carbon nanotubes.
by Conor Peal, Research Associate