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Moore's Law has ten years to run, predicts physicist

Silicon reaching the end of the road

Renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has predicted Moore's Law will run out of steam within the next ten years as silicon designs run up against the laws of physics.

"In about ten years or so we will see the collapse of Moore's Law," he says. "In fact we already see a slowing down of Moore's Law. Computing power cannot maintain its rapid exponential rise using standard silicon technology."

Gordon Moore's famous 1965 prediction said that the amount of transistors that could be packed on a silicon chip would double every year, although he later amended this every two years. The prediction has stood up for far longer than Moore suggested (he originally envisaged a ten year run), albeit with some tweaking from Intel so that performance will double, not the number of transistors.

However, as silicon transistors get down to five nanometers and below, they will become useless due to overheating and electronic leakage Kaku predicts. Intel is boosting performance in other ways, such as the use of multi-core processors and tri-gate transistors currently found in the latest Ivy Bridge range, but these have a limit on silicon Kaku warned.

Quantum computing is one avenue which offers some ways forward but Kaku dismissed the technology as hopelessly immature, saying the first proper quantum systems won't come online until late in the 21st century. The more likely candidate is molecular computing he predicts, with the addition of optical chips also providing some support.

Michio Kaku is a very intelligent and well-respected futurologist, and his ideas have a lot of merit, although researchers into quantum computing might quibble with his timescale predictions. The decline of Moore's Law does however look inevitable, and it will be missed, not least by Intel which has built a marketing message around the concept.

If Moore's Law does fail it could also see the end of another time-honored tradition – the annual Intel Developer Forum sweepstake where attendees bet amongst themselves as to how long the opening keynote speaker will go before mentioning Gordon Moore's prediction. ®

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