Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku: The End Is Near For Moore’s Law
May 1, 2012

Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku: The End Is Near For Moore’s Law

Brett Smith for

The days of Moore´s Law, which says computer processing capability doubles every 18 months, could be coming to a close according to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.

In a video produced for, Kaku said the smaller and smaller silicon chips that companies are producing might soon reach their processing limits. Once a chip´s layer of silicon reaches the size of about 5 atoms across it will begin to suffer from two particular deficiencies.

“The heat generated will be so intense that the chip will melt,” Kaku said. “You can literally fry an egg on top of the chip, and the chip itself begins to disintegrate.”

The physicist said quantum mechanics will also not allow silicon chips to maintain their integrity once they reach a certain size.

“You don´t know where the electron is anymore.  The quantum theory takes over.  The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle says you don´t know where that electron is anymore, meaning it could be outside the wire, outside the Pentium chip, or inside the Pentium chip.  So there is an ultimate limit set by the laws of thermal dynamics and set by the laws of quantum mechanics.”

For now, companies like Intel, which make the Pentium chip, have resorted to tweaking silicon chip technology in order to maximize the metalloid´s potential. The company unveiled its 3D chip technology last year that utilizes a ℠Tri-Gate Transistor´ instead of the conventional two-dimensional transistor. This innovation will allow Intel to keep pace with Moore´s Law.

Kaku noted that temporary solutions, like 3D chips, will eventually give way to non-silicon processors in the form of molecular or quantum computers.

“If I were to put money on the table, I would say that in the next ten years we´ll simply tweak Moore´s Law a bit with chip-like computers in three dimensions, but beyond that we may have to go to molecular computers and perhaps late in the 21st century quantum computers,” he said.

Molecular computing is based on the notion that some molecules can act as a binary switch, capable of alternating between 0 and 1. This leads to the possibility of performing computations on an atomic level. One of the major problems with molecular technology is creating architecture capable of allowing these atomic transistors to interact in a meaningful way.

Quantum computing, as Kaku mentioned, appears to be the long term solution to the sun setting on Moore´s Law. This technology would allow for computations to be performed at the subatomic level using qubits or units of quantum information. Qubits can be stored like conventional bits using a two-state quantum system, like the polarization of a single photon.

A major problem with quantum computing is solving the problem of decoherence, according to Kaku. For quantum computing to occur, particles must vibrate in unison. Currently, scientists are unable to prevent outside forces from disrupting this coordinated vibration.

In describing the current state of quantum computing, Kaku noted that the most complex operation the system has ever performed is ℠5 times 3 equals 15.´

“In conclusion, it is awfully hard to compute on quantum computers,” Kaku said. “The basic architecture, the basic apparatus has still not yet gelled.”