Could the Silicon Chip Max Out?

The transistor revolutionized the world, but it's starting to show its age
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Dec 16, 2007 10:23 AM CST
A small device shown in this March 30, 2007 photo, taken in Columbus, Ohio, contains computer chips that allows fans to monitor a runner on a race day Web site, get updates by cell phone text message...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – It’s been 60 years since three Bell Lab scientists invented the transistor, launching an electronics revolution that changed the way we live. Engineers have miniaturized the powerful on-off switches—eventually integrated onto silicon chips—about as far as they can. Now, companies are pouring billions of dollars into research aimed at finding other ways to speed up the devices, reports the AP.

"The pace of change is accelerating because we’re approaching a number of physical limits at the same time,” says Intel's CEO. That's led to a focus on making changes to the code used to run a transistor—(software based on quantum rules is one big push), to experiments with using more exotic substances as insulators, and to using light pulses instead of electricity to move data around the chip surface.