How Small Can You Go?


You kick around a lot of numbers when choosing a computer, but silicon chip size is probably not one of them. However,this is a key figure that determines all the important numbers that you do care about. Computer speed and memory are determined by how many silicon chips you can pack into a small space. The more silicon chips you have, the more speed and memory are at your disposal.

To be precise, it’s not the size of the chip itself, but the feature size that is important. This is the size of the individual electrical components that are crafted out of the silicon. Current computers often use silicon chips with feature sizes of 65 to 90 nanometers. That’s several times smaller than one of the hairs on your head!

A big question in modern computing is how much smaller we can get. A quirkly principle known as Moore’s Law predicts that the number of features that can be squeezed into a given area doubles every two years. But we can’t keep halving the feature size forever — eventually we will reach a limit. Why? Once we get down to the size of bare molecules, we can’t scale down any smaller. And quantum physics effects will probably interfere with smooth operation long before we reach that level.

Read more about precision silicon chip technology at

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