New Breakthrough to Shrink Computer Chips Even Smaller

new breakthrough to shrink computer chips even smaller chip

For a while, it seemed like the proverbial good times would never end when it came to computer development. Everyone wants things smaller and faster, and manufacturers have been more than happy to provide.

In 1965, Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore famously claimed that the number of transistors that can be realistically and inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit should double approximately every two years. The observation became known as Moore’s law, and for over four decades, it has driven the computer industry to continue to push to increase capacities while shrinking computer chips. But eventually things have to stop. The limitations of the current generation of technology are beginning to show, and soon manufacturers will hit a fundamental block based on physics and expenses. Enter a new generation of technology.

Scientists at both Rice University and HP are separately reporting that they have both found ways to overcome that fundamental, and fast-approaching barrier. And they’re not alone. Intel, IBM, and others are also expanding their research into new ways to make sure the “good times” continue to roll.

According to the NY Times, researchers from Rice claimed to have discovered a way to build small, vitally needed digital switches at scales that have previously been thought impossible, by using silicon oxide. Silicon oxide is a common chemical compound used primarily as an insulator by the industry. Its ready availability and ease of manufacturing make it commercially appealing.

Working with a Texas-based startup called PrivaTran, Rice scientists have begun to make prototype chips. The new chips use filaments that are five nanometers in width — a nanometer is one billionth the size of a meter. That makes the filaments already thinner than what the computer industry hopes to produce within the next ten years using current manufacturing techniques. The discovery was made by Jun Yao, a graduate researcher at Rice, who said he accidentally discovered the switch. At the moment, the chips can only hold 1,000 bits of data, but within five years scientists promise that these new chips could rival any current chips for capacity.

HP is also planning an announcement of a partnership with an unnamed semiconductor company regarding similar, but competing technology. Both HP and Rice are developing what are called memristors (memory resistors), switches that can retain information without power in the same way that flash memory can retain data. The technology being developed by Rice and HP has existed in theory since the 1960s, but there has not been a practical way to realize it until now.

Currently chip manufacturers have made finding or developing next-generation technology a priority. Each new advanced chip-making factory can cost in excess of $4 billion to properly stock it with the tools and equipment needed to make the current generation of chips. One current method for expanding on existing technology is to increase the density of chips by layering them, and stacking circuits on top of each other. The process is costly, it is producing results, and it still has room for growth — but it is a stop gap measure, and will eventually reach its limits.

Not to be out done by Rice or HP, IBM, Intel and others are developing competing technology called phase-change memory, which relies on heat to transform a glassy material into a crystalline state, then back again. The technology has shown promise, especially for flash chips which retain memory without power.

Don’t expect any major new technologies to hit the shelves for a while yet, but the future for computer chips once again looks limitless.


Google Chrome 76 will stop websites from seeing users in Incognito Mode

Google Chrome 76 will implement a fix that will stop websites from detecting visitors who are in Incognito Mode. Google acknowledged that the change will complicate matters for publishers who have metered paywalls on their news websites.

PDF to JPG conversion is as quick as a few clicks with these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.

Gmail's unsend email feature is one of its best. Here's how to use it

Everyone has sent a message they wish they could take back. How great would it be if you could undo that impulsive email? If you're a Gmail user, you can. Here's how to recall an email in Gmail.

How to change your Gmail password whenever you want in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.

Lost without Print Screen? Here's how to take a screenshot on your Mac

Whether you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts or applications such as Grab and Preview, this guide will teach you how to take a screenshot on a Mac. Once you know how, you'll be able to capture images within seconds.

Converting files from MKV to MP4 is quick and easy. Just follow these steps

MKV files have their place, but if you would rather convert your videos from MKV to MP4, there are two methods we consider the best and most efficient for getting it done. In this guide, we'll walk you through them step by step.

Listen up Apple: Here’s how to fix the Touch Bar once and for all

If you’re wondering what the point of the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar is, you’re not alone. We know it’s got potential, but it’s never managed to hit the heights of what it promised. Here’s what Apple must do to change it for the…

Be forewarned, these free MMORPGs will slay your spare time

Have ample time on your hands and an unquenchable thirst to beat, battle, and blast your way through worlds of fantasy and sci-fi splendor? Check out our picks for the best free MMORPGs.

Here's how to download a YouTube video to watch offline later

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are tools you can use both online and offline. This step-by-step guide will instruct you on how to use them.

Need to rip audio from a video? Here's how to download music from YouTube

Ripping audio from YouTube has never been easier, but with so many tools on offer, which is the best? Our guide will teach you how to download music from YouTube with two different tools. Just proceed with caution.

M4A is great for quality, but not for storage. Here's how to convert to MP3

Despite its remarkable ability to retain audio fidelity at a smaller size, M4A files aren't the best when it comes to compatibility. Check out our basic guide on how to convert M4A files to MP3.

If you work in an office, you should know how to recall an email in Outlook

If you're an outlook user who sent an angry email and really wish you hadn't, then you're in luck. There are ways to recall that email, but you'll have to act fast. Here's how to recall an email in outlook.

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. The best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.