Nanoscale wires defy quantum predictions
By EDWIN CARTLIDGE - NATURE
Added: Sun, 08 Jan 2012 17:39:04 UTC
Thanks to Quine for the link
Atomic electrical components conduct just like conventional wires, giving a new lease of life to Moore's law.
Microchips could keep on getting smaller and more powerful for years to come. Research shows that wires just a few nanometres wide conduct electricity in the same way as the much larger components of existing devices, rather than being adversely affected by quantum mechanics.
As manufacturing technology improves and costs fall, the number of transistors that can be squeezed onto an integrated circuit roughly doubles every two years. This trend, known as Moore's law, was first observed in the 1960s by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of chip manufacturer Intel, based in Santa Clara, California. But transistors have now become so small that scientists have predicted that it may not be long before their performance is compromised by unpredictable quantum effects.
Resistivity, a measure of how much a material opposes the flow of electrical current, has previously been shown to increase exponentially as the width of a wire decreases below 10 nanometres, which would impede the performance of devices with atomic-scale components.
David Ferry, an electrical engineer at Arizona State University in Tempe, points out that key parts of Intel’s latest generation of microchips are just 22 nanometres long — only about 100 times the size of the spacing between atoms in a silicon wafer. “The question is, how much further can they go?” asks Ferry.
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