Is the End in Sight?; February 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Stix; 1 Page(s)
Fifty nanometers--50 billionths of a meter--may be the semiconductor industry¿s Rubicon. At this dimension, theorists have suggested that quantum-mechanical effects may begin to wreak havoc with the reliable functioning of transistors built from the dominant chip technology-- the metal-oxide semiconductor (MOS).
A recent announcement by Bell Laboratories, the development arm of Lucent Technologies, brought both good and bad news about the feasibility of fabricating chips near these dimensions. Researchers there crafted what they called the "world¿s smallest practical transistor." On this experimental "nanotransistor," the gate--a segment of silicon and metal that turns the transistor off and on--measured only 60 nanometers across, or about 180 atoms wide.