Some day semiconductor chip components may cease to shrink; that day is not now.

At the December 2007 International Electron Devices Meeting, Intel Corp presented a paper, written by 50 of its scientists and engineers, that unveiled details of the company’s 45-nm technology. The new technology features more efficient materials that replace, for the first time in almost 40 years, polycrystalline silicon gate electrodes and silicon oxide–based insulators—core components of the transistor, the on/off switch of an integrated circuit.

The move was a response to a line in the sand drawn by fundamental physical limitations. As key circuit features shrank to single-digit nanometer dimensions, quantum tunneling of charge carriers through thinning silicon-based insulators, also called gate dielectrics, threatened the continuation of Moore’s law—the doubling of transistor density approximately every two years. The semiconductor industry could no longer ignore the power loss and excessive heating that resulted from the leakage currents...

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