The vacuum tube was invented in 1904. The semiconductor transistor (which displaced the vacuum tube) was invented in 1947, 43 years later. It now has been 60 years since the invention of the existing, semiconductor, technology. Seems that it’s time for a new technology.
During the past 60 years, the manufacturing of solid state semiconductor devices and design of systems using the devices has experienced extraordinary advancements. The basic doped and ion-implanted semiconductor technology, however, has not changed fundamentally during that period.
The smallest sizes of semiconductor nodes now are less than 20 nm with the possibility of going to 5 nm and perhaps to 1 nm using carbon nanotubes. At those sizes, quantum effects occur (atoms have diameters of 0.1 to 0.5 nm) that make integrated circuits beyond those sizes unlikely.
Since any material will be limited by the size of the atoms comprising it, smaller size chips may not be possible after the next 10 years or so.
Future advancements in electronics performance may result more from improvements in the following rather than reduction in node sizes:
• Additional semi-conductor materials such as germanium, gallium arsenide, gallium nitride, molybdenum disulfide, titanium dioxide and carbon nano materials
• Memristors – a simpler and smaller alternative to the transistor, with the capability of altering its resistance and storing multiple memory states chips for new kinds of non-Von Neumann computers
• Vacuum electronic devices for power critical systems such as radar
• Highly distributed more parallel and autonomous devices that incorporate artificial intelligence algorithms
• Groups of specialized energy-efficient chips instead of individual, general-purpose processors
• Quantum computing for specific applications (e.g., optimization, simulations). Likely more centralized due to temperature and mechanical requirements.
• Extreme ultraviolet lithography for manufacturing
• New algorithms for highly parallel processing devices, quantum computing and other architectures.
Other yet undefined technologies and designs likely will develop as well to continue the improvements in the performance of electronic devices.