Intel Pushes Moore’s Law Along: 10 nm

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Moore’s Law (which states the number of transistors per square inch doubles roughly every twelve {12} to eighteen {18} months) has had repeated claims that it would end as the limits of silicon are hit and the size approaches that where quantum effects take over, yet it keeps proving the naysayers wrong. IEEE Spectrum reports that central processing unit (CPU) manufacturer Intel is pushing Moore’s law further as it plans to push out computer and mobile processors with transistors that are just ten {10} nanometers (nm) wide. However, these transistors are going to be a bit different than your average transistor…

Intel plans on, for the first time in quite a long time, decrease the size of the gate (the piece of a transistor that switches it “on” or “off”) and the gate pitch – the size of the material that exists between one gate and another. They are also planning on making two {2} improvements on their transistor design within it’s lifetime. Intel claims this change will create a processor that, while still more expensive than the last generation, will still be cheaper per-transistor than it’s previous product offerings. Though, as with the modern generations of processors, don’t expect much difference in clock speed. What about the other producers?

Intel is also planning on allowing other processor manufacturers to use their manufacturing facilities to produce their own chips. This is less likely to be an invitation to competitors and more an invitation for manufacturers of specialized processor and chipset manufacturers. Global Foundries, the manufacturer that spun off from AMD years ago, is planning on skipping ten {10} nm altogether and jumping right to seven {7} nm in 2018.

Moore’s Law is expected to end once transistors reach 5nm. Below that size the effects of quantum physics start taking over and electrons begin “tunneling” – a quantum effect where an electron suddenly tunnels through insulating material and pops out on the other side. Essentially an electron in one transistor could suddenly end up in the one next to it – a one {1} becomes a zero {0} and a zero {0} becomes a one {1} – yikes! It is yet to be seen if something – a solution or perhaps a new material – appears to continue Moore’s Law in the future.