12 technologies that can extend Moore's Law

What next for computing after silicon?

Today’s technology industry was built upon the idea of continually improving hardware. After forty years, Moore’s Law – the premise that the size of transistors halves every two years – is at risk, and could be a thing of the past by 2021. The properties that make silicon attractive for microchips break down once you minimize transistors down to the single-digit nanometer level, meaning the end of miniaturization or the need to move on to new materials.

Here’s 12 materials or technologies that could keep the performance of our hardware improving for years to come.


1: Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography

Current lithography techniques are at their limit. Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Lithography uses smaller waves of light and can create higher density chips.


2: Vacuum tubes

Some researchers are looking at bringing back the long-outdated vacuum tube technology. Caltech’s Nanofabrication Group are developing microscopic tubes to avoid the unpredictable behaviours seen by silicon once you start reaching low nanometre measurements.


3: Graphene

The most well-known super material, Graphene is a 2D material made up of a single layer of carbon atoms. It is stronger than steel, harder than diamond, flexible, transparent, and possesses excellent conductive qualities.


4: Carbon nanotubes

Graphene, but rolled up like a newspaper, making it incredibly strong and conductive. Suffers the same difficulties around mass production as graphene.


5: Stanene and 2D friends

Graphene was the first 2D material, but many more have been discovered. Stanene, Silicene, Germanene, White Graphene, Phosphorene, Molybdenum Disulfide, and Tin Monoxide all offer their own unique ‘super material’ qualities.


6: Diamonds

Using synthetic diamond-based transistors, capacitors, and resistors in lieu of silicon has the potential to remove much issues around over-heating, allowing for better performance and the removal of heatsinks in devices.


7: Quantum computing

Unlikely to ever replace the chips in your phones, but could have major applications in High-Performance computing scenarios. It’s all very complicated, but swapping binary bits that are either 1s or 0s to qubits that are both could improve our current computing power by magnitudes and could make AI smarter, encryption better, and predictive analytics pin-point accurate.


8: Perovskite

A material first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1839, Perovskite could allow electronic devices to operate in the terahertz spectrum. Using light instead of electricity to move data, this could boost computing and internet speeds by up to 1,000 times.


9: Electronic blood

What if you could liquid cool electronics directly? IBM’s 5D Electronic Blood aims to do just that.


10: Neuroelectronics

Brains are pretty good at learning stuff in a quick and energy efficient way. IBM is working on artificial neurons that can fire and carry an electric pulse in a similar fashion to our own organic ones, meaning machines will be able to think more like we do.


11: Biological computers

Beyond mimicking biology, some companies are trying to use biology in machines. Companies such as Microsoft are using artificial DNA for data storage, while researchers are investigating writing code into bacteria or using proteins found in the human body within microchips.


12: Biodegradable microchips

With eWaste an increasingly large problem, having electronics that could degrade in a non-harmful way has great promise. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been working on a way of replacing harmful materials in semiconductors such as gallium arsenide with a thin layer of wood crystals bonded together with epoxy resin. The resulting electronics can be dissolved in a glass of water and still be more drinkable than your average tap water.


Also read:
The super materials out to save Moore’s Law
Supercomputers: Moore’s Law falling behind but China catching up
The wooden microchips and screens of the future
British security startup bets on tackling ‘post quantum Armageddon’
Why 'qudits' (not qubits) may be the key to quantum computing
How close is quantum computing?
Graphene is the super substance that could replace silicon, plastic and glass