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IBM's Dense-Pack Plan

IBM has succeeded in creating a 7-nanometer computer chip, using part silicon-germanium instead of pure silicon:

The development lifts a bit of the cloud that has fallen over the semiconductor industry, which has struggled to maintain its legendary pace of doubling transistor density every two years.

Intel, which for decades has been the industry leader, has faced technical challenges in recent years. Moreover, technologists have begun to question whether the longstanding pace of chip improvement, known as Moore’s Law, would continue past the current 14-nanometer generation of chips.

Each generation of chip technology is defined by the minimum size of fundamental components that switch current at nanosecond intervals. Today the industry is making the commercial transition from what the industry generally describes as 14-nanometer manufacturing to 10-nanometer manufacturing.

IBM effectively skipped a generation — or even better, considering the troubles Intel has had rolling out its 14-nanometer Broadwell line. The scary part is that the story notes that this new process, even if it does scale up for mass manufacturing, only takes Moore’s Law through 2018.

We’re nearing the physical limits of what can be packed into a chip.

So what’s next?