Gordon Moore talks about real estate and Stephen Hawking

Gordon Moore, the creator of Moore’s Law, always harboured an uneasy relationship with the economic formula that bears his name. At first, he was embarrassed by any law named after him.

Then he predicted the size of wafers would grow up to five times larger than current wafers if trends continued. Finally, he predicted that the number of transistors that could be crammed onto a piece of silicon would hit a wall as line widths shrunk.

He still believes that. “This is very expensive real estate,” he told Electronic News in an interview here at the Intel Developer Forum. “It’s about $1bn an acre. It’s a little more for processing, and less for DRAM.”

But Moore also predicts that the end of the current formula — which originally was that the number of transistors on a piece of silicon would double every 18 months, and which has changed to every two years — will “not be the end of the world.”

“You just make bigger chips,” he said.

Moore said he once asked Stephen Hawking if there was a physical limit on chips. The answer was that it depended on the speed of light and the atomic nature of matter. He noted that before Hafnium was introduced as an insulator, the insulation had shrunk to five layers of atoms.

Hafnium is a stopgap measure, Moore believes. Ultimately, in another 10 to 15 years, chip development will hit a fundamental physical limit, after which the economics of chip production may not be the same as they have been for the past four decades. But he said that still isn’t the end of chip production. It may simply be end of Moore’s Law, as we know it.

Tags: device, diffusion, epitaxy, lithography, materials, medea, nano-imprint, nanotechnology, process, R&D, research process

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