Silicon era is going to end or future of computing is coming?

Atul Kumar Prasad
5 min readJul 12, 2020

Home Silicon era is going to end or future of computing is coming?

Silicon era is going to end or future of computing is coming?

We are finally starting to see the end of progression in silicon chip technology and it’s starting to defect from Moore’s law which is conceived nearly four decades ago. Transistors as we all know are simple switches which allow your computer to run but there is a limitation to how small they can get. These simple switches are pretty much incorporated into every critical component of your computer including the SSD system memory GPU and most importantly the processor. There’s going to be a few problems associated with these extremely small designs but let’s just look at it from a mathematical perspective. Now theoretically the small size you can get to is the width of a silicon atom which 0.2 nanometers and right now we are achieving about a three nanometer design, so somewhere between three and 0.2 there’s going to be a full stop to the progression of making chips smaller.

Chip makers are constantly trying to find out dodge this ultimate limitation with different kinds of gate setups but the end is coming and the end of Moore’s law is inevitable this leads me to alternative options which may replace silicon in itself so beginning at number five and it’s also probably one of the weirdest options out and it’s the liquid transistor. However this liquid concept is far away from conventional not and it’s an indeed a bizarre alternative to silicon.

These circuits are made of gallium and iridium and they can react with different voltages inputs, so when voltage drops in one direction the droplets close together and once the voltage is applied in a different direction the droplets open up. This method is no secret and multiple institutions are experimenting with this type of liquid metal transistor. Ultimately you can program different shapes through electromagnetic fields but keep in mind that this does not overcome the limitations of atomic structure. The technique may lead to some very revolutionary robotics that was never conceived before.

Not all magnetic, there are some distinct advantages of solid state drives compared to magnetic hard drives but I still thinking it am quite fascinating to actually see our hard drive work with millions of magnet incorporated inside of it. Now a processing chip can utilize a similar type of magnetic technology. This would work thanks to swirling now scale tornadoes of magnetism which can flow through complex networks of nano-wires in a manner that reproduces the behavior of logic gates, so if a well rotates clockwise or represents 1 and counterclockwise means 0 but more importantly the vortices are non-volatile and they retain their winey without any power. This type of nano magnetic chip would use very little energy and it does give a possibility that this type of technology makes it a strong candidate for replacing the silicon in the long term future.

Optical Computers, in order to make this kind of computers work on light you need optical transistors, but there is a very big problem when it comes to light and that is light has relatively large wavelength, nowhere even close to this nanometer threshold achieve by silicon right now however there is an interesting thing called the surface Plasmon. These are weird particles that can be excited on the surface of materials so they travel like photon and hence they are faster than a typical silicon computer but more importantly it’s more efficient than a silicon counterpart. Ultimate light computers can be up to 5000 times faster than conventional computers and for processors that would mean that it’s running into the terahertz clock rate which is just mind blowing. Even though there are some companies out there those are using light technology. We are quite away from making a plasma and light computer.

Quantum computer, a lot of hype around the potential of quantum computers, with the ability to represent a superposition quantum state, they can work millions of computations of once, Another reason why they are so fast because each qu-bit which is added to the machine exponentially grows the calculative ability of the computer but they do face a few challenges. One being is that they need to be cryogenically cooled to a level near absolute zero which is extremely cold. Anything about that and you lose the property of qu-bit. Another challenge is that quantum computer solves problem differently and that is there are not big data machines they can only deals with specific problems and they are not a replacement to conventional computing so they may be good at predicting the stock market or even a crack in code because of their ability to simultaneously calculate these things but when it comes to booting windows are playing as simple videogame they’re not really that practical and a classical algorithm will probably win in a sheer speed linear calculation. So ultimately cost computers will actually have a place in certain applications but they will not replace your conventional desktop computer any time soon.

So now that we get to question you’re probably asking well is there anything that’s going to replace silicon and that’s a really tough question at least in short-term future because companies are still trying to innovate with silicon technology however there is one material which may replace silicon in certain applications and it’s called gallium nitrate this stuff is a semiconductor compound and it has the ability to conduct electrons a thousand times more efficiently than silicon and it also has higher temperature variations. Gallium nitrate can handle higher voltages and temperatures, thanks to its band gap and basically the band gap is arranged in a solid state where no electrons can exist, it’s the reason why semiconductors can work because they have excellent band gaps now there are few hurdles when it comes to gallium nitrate and one of them is being that gallium is typically used in depletion type devices. So when a transistor would be stuck on one position even though the gate voltage is zero, so that’s a huge problem.

Now I still think that they’re going to overcome this hurdle but this also brings me to another material that I want to talk about and that is Graphene. Graphene is very good at conducting electricity but it has no natural band gap, so it can’t be naturally used as a transistor. There has been research towards layered material which houses Graphene inside and allows it to have a band gap but it stills needs a lot of work to get into perfected state where it can be used as a transistor, if we take a one step further into rabbit hole there is actually a recent idea about combining Graphene and plasma technology.

I have strange feelings that plasmids will be the key to the next generation of future computing. My personal favorite is plasma on based technology as it could replace every component which relies on transistors and theoretically it could replace silicon altogether, it’d be thousands of times faster but it will take several breakthroughs to get the advancement in the technology. Nevertheless this may become the holy grail of computing.

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