Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has posted a video discussing the collapse of Moore’s Law in about 10 years or so. Physicists have been predicting the end of Moore’s Law for quite some time but Kaku’s reasoning and the slowing down of processing power that we already see today lends some credibility to his claims.
For those unfamiliar, Moore’s Law pertains to computer hardware, stating that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit board can be doubled roughly every two years. You’ve probably alternately heard of an 18-month time frame tossed around. This modified cycle can be credited to Intel executive David House, not Moore.
Kaku says that in about 10 years, silicon power will be exhausted. Intel has already admitted that Moore’s Law is slowing down using silicon which is one of the reasons that we are seeing Tri-Gate transistors used in Ivy Bridge CPUs – an effort to try and extend the effective life of silicon.
The problem, Kaku says, is two-fold: heat and leakage. Today’s Intel processors have a layer that is almost down to 20 atoms across. When this layer is shrunk down to around five atoms across, “it’s all over.” At this point, the heat that is generated will be so intense that the chip will melt. The other concern is leakage, meaning we simply wouldn’t know where the electron is anymore.
So what’s in store for computing in the post-silicon era? Multiple proposals have been laid out, including but not limited to optical computers, protein computers, DNA computers, molecular computers and quantum computers.
The latter two solutions seem to be the most commonly accepted “future computers” but both solutions still present enormous challenges that must be conquered. Molecular computers already exist but mass production and wiring up the tiny molecules remains an issue.
Quantum computing is even more finicky with the world record for a quantum computing calculation being: 3 x 5 = 15. As Kaku explains, it doesn’t sound very impressive until you realize it was proven using only five atoms.
Wrapping it all up, Kaku predicts that scientists will tweak Moore’s Law in the next 10 years to extend its life. After that, molecular computers will likely take over followed by quantum computers later in the 21st century.