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Microchips Continue to Shrink

20 billion switches on a fingernail-size wafer.

By Jonathon KeatsNovember 30, 2015 6:00 AM
Darryl Bautista/Feature Photo Service for IBM


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According to Moore’s Law, computer processing power doubles every two years. Although it’s not a law of physics, engineers deem it a professional responsibility, but they’re starting to reach the limits of conventional materials: Silicon channels just can’t carry enough electrical current. To keep it flowing, IBM announced in July it has developed a new silicon germanium alloy and — even more significant, says IBM engineer Mukesh Khare — integrated a short-wavelength laser used to etch the circuits. Known as extreme ultraviolet lithography, it’s 10 times finer than current techniques, channeling more than 20 billion switches into a chip about the size of a fingernail.

[This article originally appeared in print as "Micro Microchips."]

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