Intel and IBM have separately announced new technologies and manufacturing processes to make chips that are as much as 10 times faster than current versions.
The two companies revealed their plans at the International Electronic Device Manufacturers show in San Francisco, where discussions were based on reducing circuits on chips, which enables increased speed and data storage.
Intel discussed a prototype of a transistor that is 30 nanometres wide (a nanometre is one billionth of a metre) and could enable chips that have 400 million transistors and run at speeds up to 10GHz, while consuming less than one volt of power. Chips this powerful could run PCs that recognise complex voice commands or even gestures.
"Our research proves that these smaller transistors behave in the same way as today's devices and shows there are no fundamental barriers to producing these devices in high volume in the future," said Dr Gerald Marcyk, director of Intel's components research laboratory, technology and manufacturing group.
"The most important thing about these transistors is that they are simultaneously small and fast and work at low voltage," he added.
In contrast, Intel's recently released Pentium 4 chips contain 42 million transistors, the most of any current processor, and run at 1.5GHz. The company expects the new technology to appear in its products by 2005.
IBM discussed new manufacturing processes using 0.13 micron technology for chips used in servers and communications systems. The process uses copper wiring, silicon-on insulator transistors and other technologies to build the chips, which would enable faster and more powerful processing capabilities. The chips could appear in IBM's products as early as the first quarter of 2001.