IBM boffins claim that they have worked out a means of producing smaller, more powerful chips than were previously thought possible with current chip-making technology. Currently, circuits on today's chips are produced by lithography, which utilises beams of ultraviolet light to etch the circuits on pieces of silicon. There have been concerns in scientific circles that it would be impossible to make even more powerful chips by relying on the same kind of light waves.

Now scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., say that ultraviolet light can make far smaller chip circuits than once believed. Today's leading chips are designed with 90-nanometer circuits, but the IBM team has created 29.9 nanometer circuits, using a modification of the current ultraviolet light process.

A chip using this technology could contain up to three times the circuitry without an increase in size, thus enabling a big increase in computing power.

Dr. Robert D. Allen, manager of lithography materials at IBM's Almaden lab, claims that the industry may have at least seven years of breathing room before any radical changes in chip-making techniques will be required.