Denser chip technology could save Moore’s Law

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say they have found a way to make sure Moore's Law carries on when it comes to developing denser, more powerful computer chips.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say they have found a way to make sure Moore's Law carries on when it comes to developing denser, more powerful computer chips.

There are fears in the chip industry that Moore's Law - the doubling of transistor numbers on a chip every 18 months - may eventually be curtailed, but the researchers think they have found a solution.

Engineers at Berkeley are reporting a new way of creating computer chips that could revitalise optical lithography, a patterning technique that dominates modern integrated circuits manufacturing.

They have combined metal lenses that focus light through the excitation of electrons - or plasmons - on the lens' surface with a "flying head", which resembles the stylus on a old-fashioned LP turntable and is similar to those used in hard disc drives.

With this technique, the researchers were able to create line patterns only 80 nanometers wide at speeds up to 12 metres per second, with the potential for higher resolution detail in the near future.

There were fears that chip production at the sub-135 nanometer level would be curtailed when it came to the number of transistors loaded onto the surface.

"Utilising this plasmonic nanolithography, we will be able to make current microprocessors more than 10 times smaller, but far more powerful," said Xiang Zhang, professor of mechanical engineering at Berkeley and head of the research team behind this development.

"This technology could also lead to ultra-high density discs that can hold 10 to 100 times more data than discs today," he said.

Zhang worked jointly on the project with David Bogy, professor of mechanical engineering at Berkeley.

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