Dr.-Ing. Sarah Riazimehr

Electronic Engineering | Optical Engineering | Nanotechnology

What is Moore’s Law and what has Graphene to do with it?

Old Computer
An old computer from times when Moore’s law was going strong.
Source: flickr, Trey Ratcliff, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Did you ever wonder why your 2 years old smartphone is this much heavier and slower than the new ones? The answer is based in Moore’s law.

What is Moore’s law?

Moore’s law states that the number of transistors per area doubles every 18 or 24 months. By shrinking the size of transistors, the semiconductors inside of the latest electronic devices are twice as powerful as the ones that you had 2 years ago. Moore’s Law, of course, drives more than the development of your smartphones. It has driven to the entire computer industry for the last 50 years.

Here comes the full definition of Moore’s law according to webopedia.com:

“The observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months, and this is the current definition of Moore’s Law, which Moore himself has blessed. Most experts, including Moore himself, expect Moore’s Law to hold for at least another two decades.”

Moore’s law is unlikely to continue forever. At some point Moor’s law has to approach an end, because we are coming to the point where complicated physical effects make it impractical to shrink transistors even more. Scientists expect Moore’s law to hold for another two decades, but some studies have shown that the physical limitations could be reached by 2017.

This video helps you to learn more about Moor’s law and its limitation in a simple way:

Video: Is Moore’s Law Ending?

As you probably know, most of the electronic and semiconductor technology is based on silicon. All transistor downsizing assumptions and Moore’s law itself are based on silicon technology. As the video shows, Moore’s law appears to be reaching the end and silicon is “running out of gas”. Probably you ask why silicon is running out of miniaturization room? It is all matter of physics. In order to create denser device arrays, we need to produce silicon devices in an extremely small scale. At this very small size, silicon generates too much resistance to electron flow, creating too much heat and consuming too much power. Therefore, new materials for making electronic devices are needed.
Graphene is one of the candidate materials which doesn’t have the restrictions of silicon. Graphene can conduct electricity 100 times better than silicon. Graphene is extremely thin, so one can make electronic devices as small as a molecule, something that can’t be done with silicon. In one of my future posts I will explain how the amazing properties of Graphene could become the facilitator that extends Moore’s law further into the future.

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