Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Single-Atom Transistor!

We are on the cusp of quantum computing. A group of scientists from the University of South Wales have created a transistor that is the size of an atom through a repeatable method. In all fairness, we all saw this coming. It's just shown up a solid 8 years ahead of what was predicted by Moore's law.  The "law", fist conceived in 1965 by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, goes something like this:
"...The observation that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months..."
So now, we find ourselves at what may be the apex of computing density... at least under the existing dynamic. If you're not a Computer Science major let me explain this in lay terms. More transistors = faster computing. So since the goal is also to make the computer smaller and lighter, both goals are accomplished by making the transistors smaller, and packed together more densely. The end goal being transistors the size of atoms. In 2008 a transistor was made that was only 50 atoms in diameter. Then one that was 10 atoms across.

Just two years ago, a team at the Helsinki University of Technology made the first single atom transistor, but the winners at South Wales have a repeatable method which means it can be used in manufacture. Or as Ars Technica wrote... We can do no Moore.Still.. it's worth reading the dissent on CNET here.