Intel is working on shrinking the processor to sizes never before seen, or so says their new roadmap.
Currently in production are 22 nm chips. The next generation that is in development is a line of 14 nm chips, and Intel is working on developing manufacturing methods for producing 10 nm, 7 nm and 5 nm chips. At 5 nm, the transistor gates are approaching the size of a strand of DNA.
The 22 nm chips, codenamed Haswell, are expected to go on sale sometime next year. But Intel has already started outfitting its facilities in Oregon, Iowa and Ireland for the production of 14 nm chips.
For comparison, the Pentium 2 was a 350 nm chip. That means that a single transistor unit fit in 350 nanometers. Because of how scaling works, the reduction to a 22 nm transistor size means that there is an exponentially larger amount of transistors on each chip compared to the Pentium 2.
Intel is still developing the technology for such small hardware. Even the 10 nm chips are listed as being ready in 2015+, so we won’t be seeing DNA-sized transistors in our laptops any time soon. But still, we have to be near the minimum size that a silicon transistor can run at.
While this is an incredibly aggressive timetable, it isn’t very surprising. Intel has a history of aiming for difficult architecture improvements, and they have a surprising history of actually reaching them.
If you want to know more about what the future of computer processing holds, check out this great video by Michio Kaku. He discusses when silicon should run out, what some alternatives are and when we should see them hit store shelves.