Many of us grew up in the exciting world of electronic components replacing electro-mechanical devices. Transistors, resistors and solid-state controllers; soon it was all about integrated circuits, microprocessors, and computer chips. The semi-conductor industry was born, and Moore’s Law took over.
And for decades, the exponential improvements – more bang for the buck – seemed to be never-ending. Computers, and the chips that powered them, got smaller, faster, and cheaper, until they virtually disappeared into our personal items like phones, watches and glasses, and even became embedded in our bodies.
But as the silicon circuits dropped in width to just a couple of nanometers, strange things started to happen. Called leakage, electrons began to misbehave, and lose their integrity. With so little power required for processing, any environmental disturbance – like WiFi or static – could seriously disrupt the semi-conductor logic. Undetected errors are the worst kind; you can’t trust the device.
Now we’re building nanoprocessors out of nanomaterials and metamaterials – exotic devices like quantum dots and electron wells, and ‘origami’ graphene. There’s hardly any silicon in sight, except for the packaging and interconnection. We’re able to trap individual photons and electrons, create superconducting circuits that transmit electrons without any losses, and exploit the power of quantum physics.
With this type of exponential acceleration of raw computing power, and equivalent reduction in electrical energy to power the systems, Moore’s Law will be discarded as irrelevant. A new breed of ‘chip’ is emerging, and a whole new industry built around quantum microelectronics.
It’s the next big thing and it needs a name; let’s call it ‘Quantronics.’