Chip makers will hit a wall of physics in the year 2010, according to physicists at the Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory at Cambridge University. They are currently working on single electron memories, but after that "a new piece of physics" will be required to make further progress.
Hitachi is working closely with Cambridge University, via a joint venture with the university's Cavendish Laboratory, to create a single electron memory device using a technique called the Coulomb Blockade to isolate the electrons. Although scientists around the world have been aware for some years that a single electron memory is achievable, the collaborative group was the first to demonstrate the concept.
?Chip manufacture will either stabilise or come to depend on new bit of physics,? said Professor Amed from the Cavendish laboratory. "The Coulomb Blockade is likely to replace Cmos electronics when things become too small.?
He explained that conventional 16Mbit semiconductors need around 500,000 electrons to store one bit of information but only a certain number of these electrons can be controlled. There is also a cooling problem. ?When this is dissipated over five and a half million transistors it all adds up to a lot of heat," said Amed. He explained that, in a single electron memory, individual electrons are fully controlled, with a precise number of electrons present or absent in the memory cell.
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