Intel has developed transistor technology that will be used to build chips capable of completing 400 million calculations in less than the time it takes to blink.
The company said the chips would run at 10Ghz, contain more than 400 million transistors and operate at less than one volt. Intel expects commercial versions to appear within five to 10 years.
In comparison, Intel's most recent processor, the Pentium 4, contains 42 million transistors, runs at 1.5Ghz and 1.7 volts.
The CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) transistors feature structures just 30 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a metre) in size and three atomic layers thick. Smaller transistors are faster and allow chips to run faster.
These transistors, which act like switches controlling the flow of electrons inside a microchip, could complete 400 million calculations in the blink of an eye, or finish two million calculations in the time it takes a speeding bullet to travel one inch, claims Intel.
The chip giant said operating at one volt or less, future processors built using this technology will consume significantly less power than today's processors and are therefore most likely to be used in battery operated devices such as laptops computers and handheld devices.
Dr Sunlin Chou, vice-president and general manager of Intel's technology and manufacturing group, said: "Many experts thought it would be impossible to build CMOS transistors this small because of electrical leakage problems.
"Our research proves that these smaller transistors behave in the same way as today's devices and shows there are no fundamental barriers to producing these devices in high volume in the future."
He added: "The most important thing about these 30 nanometer transistors is that they are simultaneously small and fast, and work at low voltage. Typically you can achieve two of the three, but delivering on all facets in a significant accomplishment."
A $1500 10Ghz desktop computer would have the computing power of today's multi-million dollar mainframes, said Intel.
At the same time, IBM has begun producing chips for server and communications products using what it claims is the most advanced chip making technology ever developed.
The technology, called CMOS 9S, uses IBM's copper wiring and silicon on insulator (SOI) technologies to build chips circuits as small as 0.13 microns - almost 800 times thinner than a human hair, resulting in faster and more powerful processing capabilities.
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