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Intel Hardware Science Technology

How Much Smaller Can Chips Go? 362

nk497 writes "To see one of the 32nm transistors on an Intel chip, you would need to enlarge the processor to beyond the size of a house. Such extreme scales have led some to wonder how much smaller Intel can take things and how long Moore's law will hold out. While Intel has overcome issues such as leaky gates, it faces new challenges. For the 22nm process, Intel faces the problem of 'dark silicon,' where the chip doesn't have enough power available to take advantage of all those transistors. Using the power budget of a 45nm chip, if the processor remains the same size only a quarter of the silicon is exploitable at 22nm, and only a tenth is usable at 11nm. There's also the issue of manufacturing. Today's chips are printed using deep ultraviolet lithography, but it's almost reached the point where it's physically impossible to print lines any thinner. Diffraction means the lines become blurred and fuzzy as the manufacturing processes become smaller, potentially causing transistors to fail. By the time 16nm chips arrive, manufacturers will have to move to extreme ultraviolet lithography — which Intel has spent 13 years and hundreds of millions trying to develop, without success."
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How Much Smaller Can Chips Go?

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  • by AhabTheArab ( 798575 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @12:49PM (#33242062) Homepage
    Make them bigger. More space to put stuff on them then anyway. Tostito's Restaurant style tortilla chips can fit much more guacamole and salsa on them than their bite size chips. Bigger is better when it comes to chips.
  • by Revotron ( 1115029 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @12:53PM (#33242116)

    Why does Intel need to push the envelope that hard and that fast just to create a product that will, in the end, have extremely low yield and extremely high cost?

    Just so they can adhere to some ancient "law" proposed by one of their founders? It's time to let go of Moore's Law. It's outdated and doesn't scale well... just like the x86 architecture! *ba-dum, chhh*

  • by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @12:55PM (#33242140)

    Something thats been in development for even 5 years and doesn't show any concrete signs of success should at least have alternatives developed for it.

    You haven't followed much of the history of Itanium's development have you?

  • Plank's Law (Score:5, Funny)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) <thecosm3&gmail,com> on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:00PM (#33242208)
    Well I can say with absolute certainty that they will not go below the Planck length.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:12PM (#33242398)

    You have an uncanny ability to predict the present!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @04:47PM (#33245660)


  • by Rival ( 14861 ) on Friday August 13, 2010 @06:43PM (#33246836) Homepage Journal

    A peltier gets cold on one side and hot on the other. Where are you going to put the hot side, since you're trying to put the thing in the middle of a block of silicon?

    Easy -- just put two peltiers together, hot sides facing each other. Problem solved! ;-)

  • Folks don't often realize how much work we software writers go through to write this big, complex, core-eating software. Back in the day with 8-bit 500 KHz CPUs we could write a simple 1000-iteration loop with a bit of code in it, and it might lag the CPU for a whole second. Now with these fast processors we have to go through all kinds of hoops to use up all those cycles! Building languages on top of languages, interpreted languages, all kinds of extra error checking (error checking can often take 80%-90% of the cycles and code), objects on top of arrays on top of pointers on top of objects ... you get the idea. SOMEBODY has to make the software to use up all those cycles.

    It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it!!!

    WE CAN NOT LET THE HARDWARE PEOPLE WIN!!! For every added processor, every bump in Hz, we WILL come up with a way to burn it! Soon we will embark on the new 3D ray-traced desktop - THAT will keep the HW folks busy for a while!!! And (don't tell anybody) soon we will establish the need for full time up-to-date indexing of everything on the LAN. Of course, that could be done by one machine, but if we all do it independently on each machine, that will burn another whole 2GHz CPU's worth of cycles.

    Our goal and our motto: "A computer is nothing but a very complicated and expensive heater." :D

There is no royal road to geometry. -- Euclid