Moore’s Law is one of those wonders of modern life that we all take for granted, like grocery stores and anesthesia dentistry.
This achievement happened so reliably, for so long, that it became a mundane truth in computing.
We take it for granted.
But not quite yet.
A new breakthrough from IBM shows that Moore’s Law still has legs. A research team led by the company has demonstrated a prototype processor with transistor components just 7 nanometers wide. That’s half the size (and four times the performance) of current 14nm technology, pushing the demise of Moore’s Law until at least 2018.
So how was this breakthrough achieved? And when can we expect to see this technology in real devices?
Old Atoms, New Tricks
The new prototype is not a production chip, but it was made using commercially scalable technologies that could be on the market in the next few years (there is a rumor that IBM would like this chip to be introduced in 2017-2018. A prototype is a product IBM/SUNY, an IMB research lab that collaborated with the State University of New York A number of companies and research groups collaborated on this project, including SAMSUNG and Global Foundries, a company that IBM is paying an estimated $1.3 billion to take over from its unprofitable chip manufacturing wing.
In essence, the IBM research team did two key improvements, that made this possible: the development of a better material and the development of a better etching process. Each of them overcomes a serious barrier to the development of more dense processors. Let’s look at each of them in turn.