Reassessment of Moore's law through chip density | MCUTimes

Reassessment of Moore’s law through chip density

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Researchers at The Rockefeller University have shed new light on Moore’s law – perhaps the world’s most famous technological prediction – that the chip density or number of components on an integrated circuit would double every two years.

The study published by PLOS ONE reveals a more nuanced historical wave pattern for the increase in transistor density in silicon chips which makes computers and other high-tech devices ever faster and more powerful.

In fact, since 1959, there have been six waves of such improvements, each lasting about six years, with each transistor density per Chip rose at least 10 times, according to the newspaper, “Moore’s Law Revisited through Intel Chip Density.” The paper is based on a previous study of DRAM chips as model organisms for the study of technological development.

The new work clarified the waves in the wave pattern by introducing a new perspective on chip density, as the resizing of chips used in Fairchild Semiconductor International and Intel processors began in 1959.

Each six-year growth wave episode was followed by about three years of negligible growth, according to authors Jesse Ausubel and David Burg of the Program for the Human Environment (PHE) at The Rockefeller University, New York.

The next growth spurt in transistor miniaturization and computing capacity is now too late, they say.

And it will be pulled by the demand for e.g. Computer-hungry artificial intelligence technologies such as face recognition, 5G mobile networks and equipment, self-driving cars and similar high-tech innovations that require ever-increasing processing speed and computing capacity.

ONE start-up company, Cerebras, has proclaimed the largest chip ever built, the Wafer-Scale Engine, 56 times the size of the largest graphics processing unit (GPU), which has dominated data processing platforms for AI and machine learning.

“The wafer scale has 1.2 trillion transistors, contains 400,000 AI-optimized cores (78 times larger than the largest GPU) and has 3,000 times more in-chip memory.”

However, the end of silicon chip era is in sight, with only one or two silicon pulses left before further progress becomes exponentially more difficult due to physical realities and economic constraints, they say.

Continued growth in the computer industry will depend on such miniaturized innovations as nanotransistors, single-atom transistors, and quantum computing.

In 2019, the paper noted that Google’s parent company Alphabet claimed a breakthrough in quantum computing with a programmable supercomputer processor named “Sycamore” using programmable superconducting qubits.

“The published benchmarking example reported that in about 200 seconds, Sycamore completed a task that would take a current state-of-the-art supercomputer about 10,000 years.”

Ausubel, director of PHE, says: “We have climbed six times into higher valleys of silicon and similar substrates, but can leave silicon valleys for landscapes of other materials and processes.”

“Qubit Gardens can wait for the end of the current rise.”

The title of the paper refers to Gordon Moore’s famous observation from 1965 that the number of transistors in microchips grows exponentially – doubles every 12 – 24 months (Moore’s law).

However, the analysis of transistor density revealed a more complex pattern of serial waves of growth, with each technological phase lasting approximately nine years in total before saturation and replacement with a new one.

Dr. Burg, also affiliated with Tel Hai College, Israel, says the new work reveals key features of a technological phenomenon that has fueled the world’s progress for two generations.

The work is based on models developed to study growth with complex feedback that leads to limitations in density previously used in such research, he adds, demonstrating their power to illuminate the complex evolution of different machines.

Beyond Moore’s Law: Takes transistor arrays into the third dimension

More information:
Moore’s Law revised through Intel Chip Density, PLOS ONE (2021).

Citation: Reassessment of Moore’s Law through Chip Density (2021, August 18) Retrieved August 18, 2021 from

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