Materials in Today's World

Moore's Law


According to Wikipedia, "Moore's law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years." Gordon Moore made that observation in 1970, and as you can see from the figure below, it has been remarkably accurate over the many decades since.

Microprocessor transistor counts from 1971-2011. Curve shows transistor count doubling every two years.
Microprocessor transistor counts 1971-2011 and Moore's Law.
Credit: Wgsimon-Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But you cannot just keep making things smaller and smaller to make them faster and faster. At some point, you hit the limit of approaching zero and the fact that it becomes incredibly expensive to produce incredibly small feature sizes. As shown in the figure below, a leading trade magazine, IEEE Spectrum, has reported that transistors could stop shrinking in 2021.

Graph showing the 2013 and 2015 reports of transistors, with the 2015 report line leveling off at 10 nanometers in 2021.
Report showing that transistors could stop shrinking in 2021.
Credit: Transistors Could Stop Shrinking in 2021 article via IEEE

This will mean that faster computers will not be possible based on shrinking geometries. One potential approach, instead of increasing the density of transistors is the approach of making transistors faster by using carbon nanotubes. Electrons move much faster in carbon nanotubes than conventional semiconductor materials. A picture of a research carbon nanotube bridge is shown below.

Channels in transistors with carbon nanotubes.
Research Carbon Nanotube Bridge
Credit: Moore's Law- The Rule that Really Matters in Tech article via CNET