British scientists have discovered a way of squeezing light from silicon, paving the way for smaller and more powerful processors.
Professor Kevin Homewood of Surrey University said that although conventional chips are getting smaller, there will come a time in the next few years when the complexity of the contacts and the wires on the chip cannot be shrunk any more.
Unless another method is found of powering the chip, it will not be able to get any smaller.
Homewood's answer, of making prototype light emitters from silicon itself, means that chips can keep coming down in size. Homewood said that his technique worked by squeezing light out of the silicon, by creating extra silicon atoms to provide areas that can emit light in the material.
Quocirca analyst Clive Longbottom said that the process, which could lead to chips running on light rather than electricity, would mean they would give out less heat.
"The semiconductor vendors are increasingly having to battle against heat as chips gets smaller and faster," he said. "It is the big obstacle to chips getting even smaller."
Longbottom said that the Surrey University research could have massive implications for the development of the PC.
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