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Semiconductors: A Re-Incarnated Version of Moore’s Law May Live on After 3nm Manufacturing

By Dick Weisinger

Moore’s law has held up for decades in accurately predicting that the chip density of integrated circuits would double roughly every two years. But the consensus has been growing that we’ve reached the point where circuits can’t shrink any further than they already have.

Peter Lee, a vice-president at Microsoft Research, in 2016, said that “there’s a law about Moore’s law: The number of people predicting the death of Moore’s law doubles every two years.”

Robert Colwell, director at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said in 2013 that “I pick 2020 as the earliest date we could call it dead. You could talk me into 2022, but whether it will come at 7 or 5nm, it’s a big deal.”

Samsung is currently predicting that they will begin mass production of 3nm circuits in 2023. So, there is still some life, but it is likely that Moore’s law can continue but some of the underlying materials and technology will need to budge.

A report last year published on PLOS ONE looked at Moore’s law and showed the accuracy of prediction from 1959 relative to transistor density per chip. But with a refined definition of chip density, the paper identified another trend of technology generations that occurred about once every six years. The start of each wave of improvement enabled rapid increases in processor speeds and densities.

While we may be reaching a limit to feasible chip densities as we now know them, chip density may need to be redefined to account for advances of new technologies like nano-transistors, single-atom transitors, and quantum computing which are all still in their infancy. Moore’s law may be able to continue to live in a slightly re-incarnated form.

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